A video was uploaded recently at TED Talks that has caused a bit of a stir around the internet. Nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson, 19 years of age, enthusiastically sets out to solve the problem that underlies all others: Energy.
In this video, Wilson announces his variation of a Molten Salt Small Modular Reactor, and explains some of the anticipated advantages of this version of “factory-produced” nuclear power—such as an ability to burn up stockpiles of nuclear weapons materials, less leftover waste, and a sealed system requiring no refueling. The system would feature inherent, passive safety due to operation at atmospheric pressure—and such a reactor could provide a compact source of enormous power that would revolutionize space exploration.
The general ideas presented are not entirely new. In fact, the first molten salt reactor was built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory decades ago, and several entities around the world are currently researching and developing molten salt reactors (for example, Transatomic Power,Flibe Energy,Terrestrial Energy). We shall see what the future holds—in the meantime, enjoy this inspiring and engaging presentation:
It’s that end-of-semester time of year, and that means it’s time to showcase this year’s Texas Atomic Film Festival! Each year engineering students at UT–Austin communicate some rather difficult and technical nuclear concepts – and blow off some steam in a time of term papers and final exams – via the wondrous medium of the silver screen.
This year’s winner in the Technical Content category is Nuclear Power: A Solution to Global Warming
Not too worried about anthropogenic climate change? No worries, there are plenty of good reasons in the video to expand the use of nuclear power anyway. Or, take a musical ride through nuclear history with this year’s feature voted Best Overall Film – We Didn’t Start The Reactor
See the Texas Atomic Film Festival website for The Tale of Mad Dr. Rad, Nuclear Shakedown, and even more feature films.
Dr. Steven Biegalski is a professor of nuclear engineering whose students produce TAFF and he moderates the film festival. The Faculty Innovation Center at UT–Austin assists with the organization of the project and provides infrastructure for students to complete their projects.
With Unit 6 returning from a planned maintenance outage earlier this week, all 8 reactors at the world’s largest nuclear electrical generating station are now online, generating emission-free electricity from the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario, Canada (“Full Power at the Bruce“).
So… who better to demonstrate “How Nuclear Power Works” than Ontario Power Generation, owners of “The Bruce” (and owner/operators of the Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations)? Unless it would be Bruce Power, licensed developers and operators of the Bruce station. But let’s start here with a fine feature by OPG. Enjoy!
(also including bonus features on Hydroelectric Power and Thermal Power which are quite interesting in their own right)
NASA scientist Dr. Pushker Kharecha and Dr. James Hansen (the leading climate scientist in the US) recently authored a study which conservatively estimates nuclear power has saved 1.8 million lives, which otherwise would have been lost due to fossil fuel pollution and associated causes, since 1971.
Charles Chase and his team at Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works” made quite a splash recently by announcing that they are attempting to develop a truck-trailer-sized 100-MW fusion reactor—to be ready for operation in just a few years!
Chase discussed the compact fusion reactor concept at a recent Google “Solve for X” talk:
Not as compact as this:
But fusion power for 100,000 homes as compact as this:
Lockheed Martin is trying for an operational prototype by 2018, a commercially available system by 2023, and the ability to meet global baseload energy demand by 2050…
While Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania was the first full-scale nuclear plant to be designed and built to provide commercial electric power, the Vallecitos Atomic Electric Power Plant in California was actually the first privately-financed nuclear power plant to provide meaningful amounts of electricity for public use.
Vallecitos was mainly a training and test facility, paving the way for the full-scale Dresden-1 nuclear plant in Illinois and many others that followed. Vallecitos achieved criticality in August 1957, and connection to the local utility electric grid began that October.
Vallecitos received Power Reactor License No. 1 from the Atomic Energy Commission.
Two highly informative sources on the history of Vallecitos:
“The best science online” according to someone who really ought to know: Henry Reich, creator of MinutePhysics.
The ANS Nuclear Matinee has been delighted and privileged to feature videos from MinutePhysics (such as the wonderful explanations of the Higgs boson and the meaning of its discovery, the sh0cking news that E=mc² Is Incomplete, and the two-thirds of this great Matinee triple feature). Reich also was, to the best of our knowledge, the American Nuclear Society’s first distinguished virtual panelist—at the ANS Winter Meeting, in November 2012.
But… what inspires the inspired? On to MinutePhysics’ best science online:
No cheating and looking ahead! It really is fun and informative to see and hear the Grand Tour.
All forms of electricity generation have their own set of advantages… But among the seemingly endless unique advantages of nuclear fission are the massive implications of the deceptively simple equation E=mc². This translates to unparalleled energy density.
This two-minute video is a real eye-opener on what energy density can add up to in the real world.
See Jason Correia’s infographic and article, and article by Ulrich Decher, at ANS Nuclear Cafe for more information on capacity factor and siting of wind and nuclear power.
All ages are welcome at the Friday Nuclear Matinee for this short video from the UK. Kids get in free! Also, adults who enjoy British accents–and cartoons–and the funny word “aluminium.”
Alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays… what are they and how do they differ? This helpful video aimed at the younger set explains some of the basics. Enjoy!
Note: The visible glow from potassium uranyl nitrate (or sulfate) is not actually from radioactivity – see this post at ANS Nuclear Cafe for a more thorough but equally entertaining exploration of Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity
The ANS Nuclear Cafe today brings faithful viewers a short interview with Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, senior research scientist at NASA Langley Research Center. Zawodny discusses research on “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions” at NASA Langley, and the incredible potential of this new form of nuclear power—IF theory is validated by experimental results.
Friday’s “Nuclear Matinée” feature here at ANS Nuclear Cafe is a four-film cavalcade of documentaries about nuclear energy. One of these films premiered on January 18, while another has just been released. The other two have been around a while but are well worth viewing and make a good supplement to the two new films. Here is a rundown on each of the four films:
PANDORA’S PROMISE, director Robert Stone’s documentary about the realities of nuclear energy and climate change, opened on Friday, January 18, for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. Stone is well known in the field of documentaries concerning things nuclear; his award-winning “Radio Bikini,” a film that this writer saw when it was still fairly new, covered effects of nuclear weapons testing and was decidedly from Stone’s anti-nuclear period. As Stone continued to pursue his environmental interests he came to realize that the anti-nuclear movement was incalculably disavowing the single energy source that could provide power around the clock with no GHG emissions. From his own site, we find his revelatory moment to be that when he realized just how little waste is generated from nuclear energy—even high-level waste.
I will add that the timing of the first showing of this movie comes at what increasingly appears to be a significant moment both for the pro-nuclear advocacy world and the environmentalist world, as an article by Keith Kloor has taken the social media world by storm and continues to get coverage and has even been mirrored on Mother Jones. As to Robert Stone in an interesting parallel, his story seems in some ways to recall the journey of Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, who became pro-nuclear after being anti-nuclear.
ONCE UPON A NUCLEAR SHIP—The N.S. Savannah Documentary. Thomas Michael Conner/TCS Communications 2012. One hour 5 minutes.
Thomas Michael Conner’s new documentary, available for purchase as a DVD or as a web download, covers the history of the only nuclear-powered commercial ship ever built in the United States, from the laying of the keel of the ship through 2006 when the ship was moved out of the James River Reserve Fleet for preservation. The real value of this documentary lies in the fact that it is entirely first-hand; Conner, himself a health physicist on the Savannah for several years, has rounded up a number of veterans of the ship’s crew and allowed them lots of time to tell the ship’s history and a number of what sailors and we Navy veterans call “sea stories.” Unlike Pandora’s Promise, which has only been seen in a snippet or two in advance of its first play today, I’ve seen this movie in its entirety and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a good film for anyone interested in the N.S. Savannah—but more than that, for those who have studied the ship, its design and its history (and thus are those people who “have everything” on the ship) this film is significant. The film runs just over one hour—and that hour goes by pretty quickly. You can find the website for this film by clicking here—and there is a trailer for the movie that auto-plays.
I have recently watched two other presentations that aren’t exactly brand new, but that I highly recommend in this week of new documentaries as excellent additions if you haven’t already seen them.
POWERING AMERICA—A Film About Nuclear Energy. The Heritage Foundation/Coldwater Media 2012. 40 minutes. This film is a brief but information-packed presentation on nuclear energy and our energy needs. The producers of this film directly address pressing questions—and investigate nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl frankly and clearly. The film addresses competing forms of energy and shows that nuclear is the “round the clock” answer that renewables aren’t. The presentation is professional, well narrated, and well paced. After watching the film, I was left very impressed by its polish and was surprised to find it had only been about three quarters of an hour; the amount and quality of information presented was so rich that I thought surely more time had passed. We meet a number of nuclear professionals and plant operators as well as those who live and work near nuclear plants, enter nuclear power plant sites and control room simulators, and even a uranium mine in operation—right down to the deepest depths. This is a great background film to support the present wave of pro-nuclear environmentalism—and I give it five stars for its frankness. Click here to see the site for this film.
People, Passion & Purpose—A Laboratory Overview. Idaho National Laboratory. Nine minutes 10 seconds. This brief but excellent film covers some of the unseen operations of what formerly was thought of primarily as a research and testing facility for nuclear reactors—the Idaho National Laboratory. In light of the recent pro-nuclear environmentalist movement, and coupled with the film above from Heritage on nuclear energy, this overview gives the viewer a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at real, front line research at one of America’s most important installations. It’s said that the science fiction of yesterday becomes the science of today and the technology of tomorrow, and lots of that has actually happened at INL over the decades. The film is available for viewing free at the INL film site which is found here—although I received a mini disc copy (as well as Powering America on DVD) at the ANS Nuclear Technology Expo held concurrent with the 2012 ANS Annual Meeting in Chicago.
That’s it! Four films well worth watching, in my opinion—and only one of which we need wait to see.
(NS Savannah illustration from Will Davis collection.)
Will Davis is a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society. In addition to this, Davis is on the Board of Directors of PopAtomic Studios, is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and also writes his own blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.
Microsoft founder and extraordinary philanthropist Bill Gates is also a nuclear energy enthusiast.
In this excellent TeD presentation, Bill Gates talks about energy and climate, and the need for “miracles” to… well, save the world. He is a prominent investor in the nuclear reactor development firm TerraPower (for more details on the “traveling wave” reactor concept the company is developing, see this post at ANS Nuclear Cafe, and this interview with TerraPower CEO John Gilleland in ANS Nuclear News magazine).
Note that in the talk, Gates focuses on the need for nuclear technology to ameliorate climate issues in the 21st century—but an equally compelling case can be made for nuclear technology as essential to combat premature mortality due to fossil fuel combustion (estimated in the tens of thousands each year), or potentially devastating ocean acidification… clean and abundant baseload energy solves a long list of problems.
Bill Gates talks with The Wall Street Journal about nuclear technology and TerraPower.
Today the ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee features the impressive transformation going on at the Plant Vogtle -3 and -4 construction site near Waynesboro, Georgia.
Last year saw the completion of many milestones at the site—it was only in February 2012 that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the construction license for the AP1000 reactors now being built. Take a look at this short video to see the latest.
Construction Timeline 4th Quarter 2012
One year ago this landscape began to reveal America’s first nuclear facilities to be built in 30 years. And look at it today! What an impressive transformation here at Georgia Power Company’s Plant Vogtle construction footprint. Let’s go to Mark Rauckhorst for an update on the progress here.
“I would describe the success of this project as centered around the people. The people that are here in Southern Nuclear, Shaw, Westinghouse, and the contractors and sub-contractors that are part of the first nuclear project in 30 years.”
“It’s our people, our teamwork, and also our teamwork in working together with our consortium and our partners at Southern.”
“We’re working collaboratively in three organizations to come together to get the right plan and the right organization so we can be successful.”
Thanks Mark. 2012 has proven to be a year of reaching remarkable goals and achieving extraordinary milestones. Let’s cap off this year by taking a look back at the progress.
It was truly a historic event in February when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the Combined Construction and Operating Licenses for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4. These were the first COLs ever issued in the United States for a new nuclear energy facility.
Receiving the COL means the NRC determined that the design of the plant is safe and meets all regulatory requirements.
Georgia Power’s solid commitment to operating a safe and reliable facility that will sustain and improve the quality of life for customers and their communities remains the first priority.
The COL cleared the way for construction of the AP1000 reactors.
This year also saw the completion of a state-of-the-art training facility here at Plant Vogtle, including two 3rd generation, all-digital simulators. Because they were built prior to construction of the plant, the simulators are both prototypes and exact replicas of the most modern nuclear plant control room in the world. These AP 1000 simulators are in use 16 hours a day now as Operations training is in full swing! The first group of Vogtle 3&4 reactor operators and senior reactor operators are scheduled to take their first NRC written exam in the summer of 2014, followed by their first simulator exam in late fall of 2014.
Earlier this year, our six Operations training programs were accredited by the National Nuclear Accrediting Board. Following accreditation, Vogtle 3 and 4 was officially commissioned as a branch member of the National Academy of Nuclear Training. We are held to the highest standards in everything we do by independent nuclear regulating agencies and experts. In fact, American nuclear facilities are the most strongly regulated in the world – and that’s the way it should be.
On the construction site, the progress on the nuclear island and turbine island for each unit is steady and visible. The Unit 3 condenser is almost complete, and components for the Unit 4 condenser have arrived. Soon the Unit 3 cooling tower leg sections will be moved into place. Each leg weighs more than 52 tons and is 40 feet tall. Similar progress on Unit 4 will follow as scheduled in 2013.
When we talk about moving things around here on this construction site, it’s no easy task!
This containment vessel bottom head for Unit 3 weighs 879 tons including the external rebar. It was recently moved to a holding area by these incredibly powerful crawlers. This was done to get it closer to the heavy lift derrick that will eventually set it in place, as well as to free up work space so that fabrication of the Unit 3 containment vessel middle ring can begin. Here’s Chris Defnall with more.
“Mammoet, the heavy haul contractor on site, is using ten mechanically hydraulic crawlers to move the containment vessel bottom head approximately 2,000 feet. The Unit 3 Containment Vessel is being taken to a section of the heavy haul road just south of the nuclear island to be positioned closer to the heavy lift derrick crane. Once positioned down here on the heavy haul road, the internal rebar will be installed. After the internal rebar is installed, it will go to the nuclear island.”
Thanks Chris. Crawling along at 2 miles per hour, the move took just less than two hours to complete. The cradle that will support this bottom head is scheduled to be set inside the nuclear island in early 2013.
…and the reactor vessel for Unit 3, which will one day hold the nuclear fuel, has been shipped from South Korea. In the coming year components and other materials that have been fabricated all over the United States and the world will continue to arrive on a regular basis. More than 35,000 jobs will be created around the U.S. from the use of various suppliers and contractors who are providing valuable parts for this project.
Nuclear energy is an important part of America’s solution for energy security and independence. Plant Vogtle will provide Georgians with a safe, clean, reliable and efficient source of energy for decades to come. Our customers deserve it and expect it, and our commitment to it is the foundation of our success.
“It has been a tremendous year and successful in the fact that we had ten million work hours without a life altering incident. We’re continuing to train and educate our folks in nuclear safety culture. Tremendous success this year at Vogtle 3 & 4.”
Thanks Monty. It has certainly been a remarkable twelve months here at the site of America’s nuclear renaissance! In our next report we’ll look at the exciting growth and continued progress that lie ahead in 2013. Until then, best wishes from all of us here for a safe and Happy New Year