Nuclear Thermal Rocket Engines

  • Thread starter enigma
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  • #26
russ_watters
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Originally posted by Beast
Its really like charging a battery. And an anti-matter engine would be dead simple. It the anti-matter containment that is a tiny challenge.
Manufacturing it is also a "tiny" challenge. And no, you can't mine it.
 
  • #27
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Sorry I didn't mean you can mine antimatter. I mean you mine iron or coal, and use the energy to create hydrogen or antimatter. More resposible would be to use solar power.

Surely an antimatter engine is easy. You have a parabolic mirror, and burn a positron and electron at the focal point. Then high energy gamma rays are relected out the back pushing the ship forwards. No matter is left so no shock wave, just make sure the mirror will properly reflect high energy gamma rays.

The positrons can be cold and contained in a magnetic bottle.
 
  • #28
drag
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Greetings !

Well, first of all, like was mentioned before
generating any significant amount of anti-matter
(significant meaning miligrams) is practicly impossible
today, unless you've got a few US GDPs to spare. :wink:
Second, storing the anti-matter in considrable
amount aspecialy on a spaceship would be extremely difficult,
unless you actually produced anti-matter atoms -
which would even further increase the costs.
Third, using it for propulsion is also rather difficult,
there's no "mirror" you can use for such high energy
radiation, and there's no reason for you to do this
anyway since it will provide poor impulse. The more
reasonable idea is to use it to power some high Isp
plasma propulsion. Even today we have ideas and patents
of such systems but it is unreasonable to use them
unless you have a major power source. Extracting the
energy of matter-antimatter reactions again, however,
presents a considrable technological difficulty because
of the highly energetic radiation one has to capture and
effectivly convert to usable energy. As far as I know,
we have no such technology for now, but we may
build it in the future if and when we'll be able to
produce large quantities of anti-matter and handle it.

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #29
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Hm...anti-matter....natural substance.......can be made on earth.......NO! Can't possibly be true. Could it?
 
  • #30
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I did my graduate thesis on a cavity core reactor design. At that time there were a number of nuclear rocket engine concepts. One that you will see in old documents is the nuclear light bulb engine. The idea of these designs is to produce a substantial thrust and to do it with fuel that is expelled from the engine. Hexifloride gasses of U or Pu were considered. The nuclear light bulb was supposed to generate about 1.2 million pounds of thrust per engine. Gasseous fuels were discussed as early as 1955.

The design I analyzed was not intended for rocket application; it was a breeder reactor, fueled with Pu hexifloride. The core was essentially a cavity (pressure tank) in which the reaction rate was controlled by gas density. It was designed to produce 3000 MWt. If anyone happens to be interested in such a strange design, here are a few of my findings:
fissile mass = between 4000 and 5000 Kg (depending on other factors)
pressure = somewhat over 600 psia
breeding ratio = about 1.4
 
  • #31
pervect
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Beast said:
Sorry I didn't mean you can mine antimatter. I mean you mine iron or coal, and use the energy to create hydrogen or antimatter. More resposible would be to use solar power.

Surely an antimatter engine is easy. You have a parabolic mirror, and burn a positron and electron at the focal point. Then high energy gamma rays are relected out the back pushing the ship forwards. No matter is left so no shock wave, just make sure the mirror will properly reflect high energy gamma rays.

The positrons can be cold and contained in a magnetic bottle.
This isn't anything like the anti-matter rocket proposals I've seen.

I don't think we know how to make a gamma ray mirror for normal incidence gamma rays. Multilayer dielectric mirrors are the highest frequency mirrors I'm aware of, and they only go up to soft x-rays. The prospects for going up higher are worse.

Current designs use the nucleus of the anit-matter (with the positrons, too, but they only contribute 1/2000 of the energy). The main decay mode is into pions. About 2/3 of the pions are charged, which turns out to be very convenient.

Take a look at

http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/02.html [Broken]

for solid core, gas core, plasma core, and the beam core anti-matter rocket designs.

Alas for these designs, we still don't have a cheap enough way of manufacturing anti-matter.

Probably the most efficient use known of anti-matter would be the anti-proton induced fission fragment designs, such as in

http://niac.usra.edu/files/library/fellows_mtg/oct02_mtg/pdf/740Howe.pdf [Broken]

This is all currently highly theoretical, though.
 
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  • #32
970
3
Unclear Nuclear...


Data results from some nuclear rocket programs:

NERVA-Derived Reactors:
Mass: 2,555 kg
Thrust: 71.6 kN to 981 kN
Hydrogen Flow: 8.5 kg*sec^-1
Thermal Power: 354 MWt - 4500 MWt
Fuel: UC-ZrC-C in a graphite matrix
Exhaust: 5500 F

KIWI Series:
85 MWt-900 MWt
Exhaust: 2683 K
Fuel: cylindrical Uranium Oxide elements in graphite modules

Phoebus Series:
1090 MWt - 5,000 MWt
Exhaust: 2370 K
Fuel: Niobium Carbide coated

PEWEE:
503 MWt
core power density: 2340 MWt*m^-3 average and 5200 MWt*m^-3 peak
Exhaust: 2550 K
Fuel: Zirconium Carbide coated

Nuclear Furnace Series:
44 MWt
core power density: 4500 to 5000 MWt*m^-3
Exhaust: 2500 K
Fuel: Uranium Carbide

NRX Series:
1100 MWt - 1200 MWt
Thrust: 334 kN

XE':
1100 MWt

SNRE:
Thrust: 73 kN


"One overriding lesson from the NERVA program is that fuel and core development should not be tied simply to a series of engine tests which require expensive nuclear operation. Definitive techniques for fuel evaluation in loops or in non-nuclear heated devices should be developed early and used throughout the program..."

Reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/upload/2/22/NASA-NERVA-diagram.jpg [Broken]
http://www.f104g.demon.co.uk/space/images/nerva.jpg
http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/IMAGES/SMALL/GPN-2000-000697.jpg
http://www.space.com/images/h_ntr_diagram_072000_02,0.gif [Broken]
http://en.wikipedia.org/upload/thumb/7/7f/180px-NASA-KIWI-A-prime.jpg [Broken]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_thermal_rocket
http://www.fas.org/nuke/space/c04rover.htm
http://www.lascruces.com/~mrpbar/rocket.html [Broken]
 
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  • #33
marcus
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Mandrake said:
I did my graduate thesis on a cavity core reactor design. At that time there were a number of nuclear rocket engine concepts. One that you will see in old documents is the nuclear light bulb engine....
that is interesting
I remember seeing a "nuclear light bulb" design discussed in a nasa document from the 1970s IIRC
the walls of the cavity were (intended to be) protected by a flow of gas
along the walls IIRC
the fuel mass was achieved in a gas phase---just as you say here.

If memory serves, also at that time "pebble bed" designs were considered somewhat like a HTGR (high temperature gas-cooled reactor) for propulsion.

Mandrake please tell me what you think: suppose someday for a Jupiter mission----landing on an icy Jovian moon----NASA or some such agency wants a rocket which the crew can resupply with propellant derived from locally available water ice.

Could you,without a lot of work, roughly compare some practical alternatives----some kind of nuclear rocket using a reactor of some type to heat water or to heat hydrogen (derived from the ice)----or a chemical rocket.

I am interested in knowing if it is possible to have a low maintenance
robust propulsion technology whose propellant can be resupplied from materials found on site, perhaps in low or moderate gravity.
 
  • #34
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marcus said:
that is interesting
I remember seeing a "nuclear light bulb" design discussed in a nasa document from the 1970s IIRC
the walls of the cavity were (intended to be) protected by a flow of gas
along the walls IIRC
the fuel mass was achieved in a gas phase---just as you say here.
Yes. The big advantage of a fissile gas fueled reactor is its simplicity. If the gas can be expelled, there are other advantages, but there is the obvious concern for spewing fission products around.

If memory serves, also at that time "pebble bed" designs were considered somewhat like a HTGR (high temperature gas-cooled reactor) for propulsion.
I retired from the nuclear business in 1996 and have only occasionally kept in touch with the subsequent work. To the best of my knowledge, the pebbel bed design (a very old concept) remains as one of the most attractive concepts for future fission reactors. For space applications, I am not sure how it would work. Weightlessness would introduce factors that are not present in other designs.
Mandrake please tell me what you think: suppose someday for a Jupiter mission----landing on an icy Jovian moon----NASA or some such agency wants a rocket which the crew can resupply with propellant derived from locally available water ice.
I can only guess, but anything that could be heated and expelled could be used to provide thrust. Water would work, but I don't see any reason why methane or liquids could not be used. The idea is to simply heat the propellant to a very high temperature and let it go!

Could you,without a lot of work, roughly compare some practical alternatives----some kind of nuclear rocket using a reactor of some type to heat water or to heat hydrogen (derived from the ice)----or a chemical rocket.
The alternatives that come to mind fall into two categories:
1 - a reactor used as a heater. This is basically what we have with existing power reactors. The only difference is that the coolant would be ejected. This category could involve a gas core (per my prior comments) or a solid core (as in existing reactors). The general problem is that reactors, even if they used a hexifloride fuel, are heavy and rather complicated. There is also the obvious concern that various safety systems are required to prevent the reactor from going prompt critical.

Low powered reactors, operating in a gravitational field, can be used for such things as heating with relatively simple passive controls. This is one attraction of the pebble bed. Such reactors would be useful for electric power generation, ice melting, etc.

2 - an open system. The big attraction of an open system (fuel expelled) is that it could provide very high thrust. This might be possible in some special situations.

I am willing to write more later, but have to shut down the computer now.

SCRAM!
 
  • #35
enigma
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Mandrake said:
I can only guess, but anything that could be heated and expelled could be used to provide thrust. Water would work, but I don't see any reason why methane or liquids could not be used. The idea is to simply heat the propellant to a very high temperature and let it go!
You'd want to have the coolant be as light as possible. Higher thrust is attainable through lighter reactant masses. You could use water - which provides the thrust for the highest performance (non-polluting... H-Fl works better) chemical rockets. Even better would be to remove the oxygen from the equation entirely and simply use hydrogen.

On the other side of the coin, hydrogen is near impossible to store large enough quantities for propulsion in gasseous form, and cryogenics are extremely unattractive for long duration missions. For that reason, water may be a better option. It would depend on what the specifics of the mission are (Do note that I haven't done any trade studies on the various options either).
 
  • #36
drag
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pervect said:
Current designs use the nucleus of the anit-matter (with the positrons, too, but they only contribute 1/2000 of the energy). The main decay mode is into pions. About 2/3 of the pions are charged, which turns out to be very convenient.

Take a look at

http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/02.html [Broken]

for solid core, gas core, plasma core, and the beam core anti-matter rocket designs.
Anybody got an idea about the efficiences of such systems ?
 
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  • #37
970
3
exhausted efficiency...


The efficiencies for some anti-matter thrusters are already listed in the first reference.

The efficiencies for these design types is high, however, if you incorporate the 'industrial efficiencies', that is, the total amount of energy required to produce the anti-matter catalyst fuel as well as the thruster efficiency, you probably produce an 'industrial efficiency' that is in the micro-percentage.

These designs are interesting for theoretical study, however, it would seem more efficient, given any amount of anti-matter, to be used as a nuclear fusion catalyst for power generation, rather than exhausted as a form of thruster propulsion. The designs themselves make no reference about where the power is produced for the necessary powerful magnetic fields required to store the anti-matter, (another seperate nuclear reactor probably).

Also, such theoretical designs are not conducive for private sector development and advancement, which is a major key if the ultimate goal is to advance science and explore space. It is not an appealing thought to have major world governments with absolute monopolisational control of space travel.

From such a prospect, we as scientists would only result in the expansion of the world governmental conflicts into the very areas of space that private sectors would want to explore the most.

Design simplicity, reliability and industrial efficiency are the real keys here, as well as the promotion of private sector development. This is why thermo-fission rockets are the best design strategy.


Reference:
http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/apc55.gif [Broken]
http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/apc54.gif [Broken]
http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/apc56.gif [Broken]
http://www.islandone.org/APC/Antimatter/apc53.gif [Broken]
 
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  • #38
drag
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Greetings !

Oh... didn't notice the efficiencies listed, thanks.

Provided that anti-matter is stored in the form of anti-hydrogen
and with advanced superconducting containment technology, I believe
that future containment problems could be solved and draw relatively little
power. Production efficiency is doubtedly an issue, if anti-matter
is used it is likely to be produced on Earth and trasnported to
the spacecraft that will exploit its energy.

Don't wan'na go into politics.

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #39
Morbius
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enigma said:
One of the pleasant side-effects of the unpleasant fact that the US pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaties is that NASA is now free to restart research into nuclear thermal rockets.
enigma,

This is puzzling - since the USA has not pulled out of any nuclear
non-proliferation treaties. The USA is still a signatory of the NPT -
the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The U.S. Senate did not ratify the CTBT [ Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ]
that President Clinton signed - so the CTBT will not go into effect; since
under the terms of the CTBT as negotiated by President Clinton, the USA
is one of the 40+ countries that has to agree to the treaty for it to go
into force.

Although the CTBT never went into effect, the USA has abided by, and
continues to abide by the terms of the CTBT since 1992 when the USA
stopped nuclear testing.

The only arms control treaty that the USA has pulled out of is the
ABM [ Anti Ballistic Missile ] Treaty. However, the ABM treaty never
constrained nuclear weapons development.

No treaty constrains the development of nuclear thermal rockets.

There is a constraint against exploding nuclear weapons in space
like in the Orion concept. That constraint remains in force.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist LLNL
 
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  • #40
Morbius
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Beast said:
Sorry I didn't mean you can mine antimatter. I mean you mine iron or coal, and use the energy to create hydrogen or antimatter. More resposible would be to use solar power.

Surely an antimatter engine is easy. You have a parabolic mirror, and burn a positron and electron at the focal point. Then high energy gamma rays are relected out the back pushing the ship forwards. No matter is left so no shock wave, just make sure the mirror will properly reflect high energy gamma rays.
Beast,

What material did you have in mind that reflects high energy gamma
rays?

The wavelengths of gamma rays are too short to reflect off any
material I know of in a "mirror-like" manner.

Gamma rays can be scattered, i.e. deflected by matter - by Compton
scattering for example. But that process does not obey the angle of
reflection equals the angle of incidence like in a mirror - and that's
the whole idea behind a parabolic reflector. Unless you have the
reflection angle equal to the angle of incidence - there's nothing
special about a parabola.

Additionally, if you are only exhausting photons - the amount of
energy you have to expend for the amount of momentum in the photons
[ which produces the thrust ] is extremely large.

You don't get much momentum from a photon for the energy you
expend.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist LLNL
 
  • #41
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Remember, if you use oxygen or carbon dioxide as a fuel, oxidation may occur with the uranium fuel rods. The uranium will corrode and flake off, leaving you with less and less nuclear energy. Eventually, it would just shut down completely. There are I believe reactors out there that would be capatible with oxygen or carbon dioxide, but they would not produce as much energy, and oxygen and carbon dioxide have a lot more mass then hydrogen, so there wouldn't be much thrust produced.

I am only telling you what I read last night on nuclear thermal rocket engines. :smile: I was looking to see if a nuclear rocket could use hydrogen and oxygen propellant because that would be vastly easier for a transfer vehicle between the Earth and the Moon. You could load up on LH2 at Earth and then refuel with LOX at the Moon, but it seems that just won't work.

What I'm interested in is thrust-augmented nuclear thermal rocket engines. They inject liquid oxygen in the nozzle after the hydrogen has passed the reactor, and combustion takes place. It gives a big blow to its Isp, but it produces more thrust.
 
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  • #42
enigma
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Morbius said:
enigma,

This is puzzling - since the USA has not pulled out of any nuclear
non-proliferation treaties. The USA is still a signatory of the NPT -
the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Sorry I missed this before. I was referring to the CTBT and anti-ballistic missile treaties, not the non-proliferation treaty.

The point I was trying to make was that research into nuclear engines is ramping up again.

Although the CTBT never went into effect, the USA has abided by, and
continues to abide by the terms of the CTBT since 1992 when the USA
stopped nuclear testing.
As far as we know :wink:

No treaty constrains the development of nuclear thermal rockets.
Yes, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't been extremely un-PC to consider nuclear engines for many years. That's starting to change.

Thanks for catching my errors. :smile:
 
  • #43
enigma
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Colby said:
What I'm interested in is thrust-augmented nuclear thermal rocket engines. They inject liquid oxygen in the nozzle after the hydrogen has passed the reactor, and combustion takes place. It gives a big blow to its Isp, but it produces more thrust.
Why would you need more thrust when you're in space? Fuel efficiency is the be-all-and-end-all in space.
 
  • #44
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Well you can get to the Moon in 24hr with the technology. ;) It's just interesting, especially someday for space tourism. I know I wouldn't want to be stuck in a module with a bunch of tourists for more than day.
 
  • #45
Morbius
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enigma said:
As far as we know :wink:
enigma,

You can be sure Las Vegans would know - they got jolted by the
underground nuclear tests that the USA conducted at the Nevada
Test Site.

Currently, the USA conducts "sub-critical" tests - that is tests in which
the experiment does not result in a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

Because there's no chain reaction - there's no great release of energy.

The only energy release is due to the chemical explosives. Since there
is no great release of energy - these sub-critical experiments are not
detectable.

However, when President Clinton negotiated the CTBT - he negotiated
it so that sub-critical experiments were PERMITTED. Additionally, the
release of nuclear energy in inertial confinement fusion [ laser fusion ]
was also permitted in the CTBT as negotiated by President Clinton.

I bring this up - because one often hears that the USA is violating the
CTBT because of its laser fusion activities. First, the CTBT is NOT in
effect - so you can't violate it. Second, even if it were - President Clinton
negotiated the CTBT to PERMIT laser fusion.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #46
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Do you know where safe plutonium comes from?

Currently, the USA conducts "sub-critical" tests - that is tests in which
the experiment does not result in a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

Because there's no chain reaction - there's no great release of energy.

The only energy release is due to the chemical explosives. Since there
is no great release of energy - these sub-critical experiments are not
detectable.
Hi, You might be interested to know that the plutonium that is used to mock-up weapons grade Pu-239 is the very safe nonfissionable isotopes, Pu-242 and Pu 244, that are 90+ percent of the plutonium content of spent reactor fuel rods. The Pu-239 that is "breedered" from the U-238 dilutent of the reactor-grade U-235 is fissioned to the extent of over 70 percent. The cross section (n, fission) for Pu-239 is 742 barns and that for (n, gamma) that creates Pu-240, is 286 barns. The Pu-240's (n, fission) is negligibl and (n, gamma) is 250 barns; that results in Pu-241. 70% of the Pu-241 fissions, (n, fission) - 1010 barns and (n, gamma) is 390 barns. Most of the plutonium that was created has been burned; what remains becomes Pu 242, Pu-243 and Pu-244. Do you think North Korea can make a bomb that works?
In the late 1970s, my hydrodynamics group at Los Alamos was using Pu-242 in 4-pi spherical bombs without fear that, even being compressed, would go nuclear. Of course, these experiments were conducted in confinement vessels so that the Pu-242 could be recycled. It was also important to not scatter it around the firing site for health reasons. Thanks for your audience,
Jim
 
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  • #47
Morbius
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NEOclassic said:
Hi, You might be interested to know that the plutonium that is used to mock-up weapons grade Pu-239 is the very safe nonfissionable isotopes, Pu-242 and Pu 244, that are 90+ percent of the plutonium content of spent reactor fuel rods. The Pu-239 that is "breedered" from the U-238 dilutent of the reactor-grade U-235 is fissioned to the extent of over 70 percent. The cross section (n, fission) for Pu-239 is 742 barns and that for (n, gamma) that creates Pu-240, is 286 barns. The Pu-240's (n, fission) is negligibl and (n, gamma) is 250 barns; that results in Pu-241. 70% of the Pu-241 fissions, (n, fission) - 1010 barns and (n, gamma) is 390 barns. Most of the plutonium that was created has been burned; what remains becomes Pu 242, Pu-243 and Pu-244. Do you think North Korea can make a bomb that works?
In the late 1970s, my hydrodynamics group at Los Alamos was using Pu-242 in 4-pi spherical bombs without fear that, even being compressed, would go nuclear. Of course, these experiments were conducted in confinement vessels so that the Pu-242 could be recycled. It was also important to not scatter it around the firing site for health reasons. Thanks for your audience,
Jim

Jim,

I'm afraid that you are in error in your post above. The subcritical tests
DO use Pu-239 Please see:

http://www.llnl.gov/str/Conrad.html

which states:

"In the Livermore experiments, chemical high explosives are detonated
next to samples of weapons-grade plutonium (plutonium-239) to obtain
new insights about plutonium and its alloys in the ensuing microseconds."

Subcritical tests are not tests of weapons - so you don't have a weapons
configuration. There's no chance of the experiment going critical in any
case.

You are also in error in your accounts of what the isotopic mix of spent
reactor fuel is. It is more complex than the simplistic analysis you give
above using just the neutron cross-sections.

The isotopic mix doesn't just depend on the cross-sections, but on the
positioning of the material in the reactor, the flux of neutrons that
the fuel sees and the length of time the fuel spends in the reactor...

In order to determine the isotopic mix of the spent fuel, a priori; one
needs to use a complex reactor fuel cycle analysis computer code.
Argonne National Laboratory has written one such computer code
called "REBUS":

http://www.rae.anl.gov/codes/rebus/

One will get a higher percentage of the higher mass isotopes if one
leaves the fuel in the reactor longer for higher "burnup".

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #48
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We are talking about 2 different things

Morbius said:
"In the Livermore experiments, chemical high explosives are detonated
next to samples of weapons-grade plutonium (plutonium-239) to obtain
new insights about plutonium and its alloys in the ensuing microseconds."

Subcritical tests are not tests of weapons - so you don't have a weapons
configuration. There's no chance of the experiment going critical in any
case.
I have no argument with LLNL's pursuit; however, LANL's quest was the safe study of the Equation of state of Pu in real weapon configuration. Until Pu-242 became available, the fuel of our bombs were mocked with uranium.

You are also in error in your accounts of what the isotopic mix of spent reactor fuel is. It is more complex than the simplistic analysis you give
above using just the neutron cross-sections.

The isotopic mix doesn't just depend on the cross-sections, but on the
positioning of the material in the reactor, the flux of neutrons that
the fuel sees and the length of time the fuel spends in the reactor...
The point I make is that the presence of U-238 in the fuel mix of reactor grade fuel has more to do with the creation of Pu-239 than with neutron flux and geometric considerations. Much of it burns and my use of cross-sections is merely to calculate the possible path of the natural conversion to the Pu- 242. I don't believe I need REBUS to do that . I do agree that the age as well as the amount of U-238 in the mix have a lot to do with the buildup of other isotopes. Cheers, Jim
 
  • #49
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Well, nobody here talked enough about Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP).
Nuclear Termal Rockets (NTR) are a very good possibility to low down the costs to go from ground to space, but are at all not good for interplanetary missions.
I explain:
Chemical propulsion can have a maximum specific impulse around 450 sec. To explain easily the specific impulse it is how many seconds the propulsor can work with 1 Kg of propellant to give a thrust of 1 N. The specific impulse is the gas exhaust speed divided for g, so it is about 1/10 of the exhaust speed.
In chemical propulsion this il limited by the energy of the reaction.

NTR can arrive to 1000-1500 sec, but not more. So, they can half the initial weight of the rocket and be very good do take off form ground.
However, for long missions, the fuel consumption is still too big.

Electric propulsion, like MPD, don´t use termodynamics to accelerate the propellant, but electro-static/magnetic forces. So the exhaust speed has no limit. With Vasimr it is possible to arrive to specific impulse on the order of 15000 sec, ten times NTRs. The problem is that to do this they need very high electric power.
The great idea of NEP is to make a nuclear power plant in the spacecraft, t give MPD the necessary electric energy.
The problem is that with electric propulsion is impossible to take off, because the acceleration will ever be less than g (to have more power you need more weight...)
So: use NTR to go to GTO (the work that now is done by shuttle, ariane and so on) and take there the materials to construct an orbitant spacecraft in which you can construct a nuclear power plant to use to transfer to other planets.
Recently NASA gived something like 400.000.000 of dollars to Lockheed to start a NEP project. I think this means that it is possible to do this, and if we wait some 10 years maybe we will see it.
Byez
 
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  • #50
Morbius
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NEOclassic said:
I have no argument with LLNL's pursuit; however, LANL's quest was the safe study of the Equation of state of Pu in real weapon configuration. Until Pu-242 became available, the fuel of our bombs were mocked with uranium.
Jim,

The Equation of State [ EOS ] of Plutonium has absolutely NOTHING
to do with the configuration of the experiment - it is an intrinsic
property of the material. Since the objective is to study the EOS
of the material used in the weapons - Pu239 - then why not use the
actual material you want to study in your experiment?

The only reason why one would use a proxy material is if it would lead
to the chances of a nuclear criticality. If the experiment is not a
weapons configuration - then there's no chance of a criticality - and
one can use the actual material that one wants to study.

By using a weapons configuration - LANL may have complicated their
experiment. By using a configuration in which a criticality was a
possibility meant they couldn't use the material they actually wanted
to study and forced them to use Pu242 as a proxy.

The point I make is that the presence of U-238 in the fuel mix of reactor grade fuel has more to do with the creation of Pu-239 than with neutron flux and geometric considerations.
ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, CATEGORICALLY WRONG!!!

The neutron flux has every bit as much to do with the creation of Pu239
as the presence of U-238!

Pu239 is created by neutron absorption on U-238 - and the production
rate is equal to the product of the cross-section and the flux. So they
are EQUALLY important. It is erroneous to say "the presence of U-238
in the fuel mix of reactor grade fuel has more to do with the creation
of Pu-239 than with neutron flux..." as you contend above.

[ Before I joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I spent the
first few years of my career doing nuclear reactor design and analysis
for Argonne National Laboratory - doing precisely the type of analysis
that we are discussing here. Your experience in the field of nuclear
reactor fuel cycle analysis is ??? ]

Much of it burns and my use of cross-sections is merely to calculate the possible path of the natural conversion to the Pu- 242. I don't believe I need REBUS to do that . I do agree that the age as well as the amount of U-238 in the mix have a lot to do with the buildup of other isotopes. Cheers, Jim
Yes, much of the Pu239 does burn. In fact, in the average three years
that a typical fuel assembly spends in a typical Light-Water Power
Reactor - about 40% of the energy that is derived from that fuel
assembly is due to the fissioning of Pu239 that was created in situ.

So the neutron flux both creates the Plutonium, and then burns it.
The distribution of the neutron flux is dependent on the distribution of
the fissile materials - which is dependent on the distribution of the
neutron flux.

So you have a coupled, inter-dependent problem and you think you can
do an accurate calculation without a computer code? BALONEY!!

You can get an extremely rough estimate with your "back of the envelope"
calculations. But to do anything approaching reality - paper and
pencil methods won't cut it.

In your previous post. you stated your doubts about the North Koreans
being able to use the Plutonium from their reactors to build a bomb.

Where do you think we got the Plutonium for our bombs? Reactors!!!

If you operate the reactor with frequent refueling so that the time the
U-238 laden fertile material is exposed to the neutron flux is limited -
then you can build up the concentration of Pu239 and not burn too much
it.

You have to do a time-dependent and space-dependent analysis of the
Plutonium accreation and depletion by the neutron flux.

This is why your "back of the envelope" - using neutron cross-sections
only gives you the WRONG answer! You didn't take the temporal
and spatial natures of the problem into account.

I would proffer that the North Koreans do a better job of reactor
analysis than you just did - and know how to extract weapons usable
Plutonium from a nuclear reactor fuel cycle - exactly the way we do!!

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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