Nuclear power is great if you want to generate a lot of electricity without releasing lots of CO2 and other harmful pollutants. However, the major bugbear of the technology has always been the problem of waste. Many of the byproducts from the operation of nuclear plants are radioactive, and remain so for thousands of years. Storing this waste in a safe and economical fashion continues to be a problem.
Alternative methods to deal with this waste stream continue to be an active area of research. So what are some of the ways this waste can be diverted or reused?
Fast Breeders Want To Close The Fuel Cycle
One of the primary forms of waste from a typical nuclear light water reactor (LWR) is the spent fuel from the fission reaction. These consist of roughly 3% waste isotopes, 1% plutonium isotopes, and 96% uranium isotopes. This waste is high in transuranic elements, which have half-lives measured in many thousands of years. These pose the biggest problems for storage, as they must be securely kept in a safe location for lengths of time far exceeding the life of any one human society.
The proposed solution to this problem is to instead use fast-neutron reactors, which “breed” non-fissile uranium-238 into plutonium-239 and plutonium-240, which can then be used as fresh fuel. Advanced designs also have the ability to process out other actinides, also using them as fuel in the fission process. These reactors have the benefit of being able to use almost all the energy content in uranium fuel, reducing fuel use by 60 to 100 times compared to conventional methods.
Unfortunately, fast breeder technology has largely been held back by economics. The discovery of more abundant uranium resources in the 1970s has meant it’s cheaper to simply dig up more fuel than to reprocess waste. Additionally, concerns about the ability of fast breeder reactors to create weapons-suitable nuclear material have also stymied development. While the technology is promising, major developments in this area are likely decades away.
Processing Waste Into Nuclear Batteries
For spacecraft traveling into the deep beyond, solar power doesn’t always cut it. Past Mars, there simply isn’t that much light coming in from the Sun to make solar panels a viable option for power supply. In these cases, spacecraft often use radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which pack radioactive materials into a case with thermocouples. The heat of the decaying material generates electricity through the thermocouple array, which is used to run the spacecraft. An additional benefit is that the heat provided helps keep systems on board the craft at a suitable operational temperature.
Historically, these have been used by Russia and the United States, but the European Space Agency is keen to get their hands on the technology. The plan involves extracting americium-241 from British waste stocks of plutonium from nuclear fuel reprocessing. While it’s unlikely to be a major project in terms of cleaning up waste, it could serve as a useful source for RTG materials. This is particularly relevant as US stocks are running down, as the plutonium-238 previously used was only available from reactors used to produce nuclear weapons, which have since been shut down. The race is on to produce more, but in the meantime, this opens the door for the British project.
An alternative idea in this space is that of the betavoltaic battery. This works by using a semiconductor material which captures electrons released by the beta-decay of radioactive material. The University of Bristol is working to develop the “diamond battery”, which uses radioactive carbon-14 from waste graphite moderator blocks used in British nuclear facilities. The blocks have their outer layers scraped off, where most of the carbon-14 resides, and this is used to create man-made diamonds that release electrons as they decay. These are then encased in a shell of non-radioactive carbon-12, to prevent the radiation escaping to the atmosphere. The electrons released in beta-decay are of low energy, so only minor shielding is needed. It’s estimated that such batteries could provide on the order of 100uW for thousands of years.
Uses for Depleted Uranium
Another major byproduct of the nuclear power industry is depleted uranium. This is the uranium left over after the enrichment process necessary to prepare fuel for use in reactors. It consists mostly of non-fissionable uranium-238, and is still somewhat radioactive, though less so due to most of the uranium-235 being removed during the enrichment process.
Depleted uranium has several properties that make it highly attractive for military applications. It’s high density means that it makes a good warhead for anti-tank munitions. Depleted uranium munitions have excellent penetration ability, and are able to pierce heavy tank armor. This is also aided by their self-sharpening nature. When a depleted uranium warhead hits a target, it fractures in a way that causes it to remain sharp, while the heat of the impact helps ignite the resulting cloud of depleted uranium particles. This makes such rounds highly effective in such roles, often replacing other high-density materials like tungsten.
Chemical Processing of Depleted Uranium
There are other applications for depleted uranium too, outside of weaponry. Recently, a new application has been found for depleted uranium, in the area of chemical processing. A group of researchers at the University of Sussex have created a catalyst using the material, which helps convert ethylene into ethane. While converting between the two chemicals is nothing new, it’s a novel application for depleted uranium.
The storage of large quantities of depleted uranium from the enrichment process is an ongoing problem for governments around the world. Being able to use the material in industrial processes could be a viable alternative to simply storing it at disposal sites or firing it into foreign countries via tanks and warplanes. However, care is needed to ensure the lightly-radioactive material doesn’t cause additional workplace hazards or health issues.
Unfortunately, there are issues in the way of reuse and reprocessing of nuclear waste. Many of these processes open up the possibility for nuclear material to be stolen or diverted. This poses a risk for the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
For example, the amount of plutonium required to create a viable nuclear weapon is measured in the tens of pounds. With reprocessing operating on an industrial scale, the possibility exists for quantities of this material to go missing while remaining undetected. It’s a fraught problem, one that depends on the exact particulars of isotopes and processes. Current nuclear waste from light-water reactors is not a concern, for example, as it is considered too highly radioactive to easily steal. But technologies like fuel reprocessing have the possibility of generating weapons-grade material from spent fuel, which many governments seek to prevent wherever possible.
Additionally, some argue that efforts to recycle or reuse nuclear waste take away resources that should be applied to finding a dedicated storage solution for the material. Many countries have dragged their feet on establishing permanent waste dumps, including the USA. With spent fuel from current reactors remaining unsafe for thousands of years, finding a safe long-term storage solution for this existing waste material should be a priority.
Why Do Today What Can Be Put Off To Tomorrow?
Fundamentally, the highly radioactive and dangerous nature of nuclear waste poses many challenges for governments and industries looking to dispose of the material. The current status quo is largely to let it build up while the decades-long struggle continues over what to do with the ever increasing amount of nuclear waste. Ideally, new technology will open up avenues to dealing with the problem in a clean and safe manner, but in the meantime, difficult political decisions will need to be made.
56 thoughts on “Alternative Uses For Nuclear Waste”
I recently came across this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor .
Yep, the process of turning the “waste” into salts effectively poisons it so there is no way the production of weapons material is an issue. There there are the hybrid fusion-fission reactors that use 1>Q fusion reactors as a neutron source to push material over the neutron boundary and into a state where they are consumed in fission reactions. The Chinese completed the full engineering design study for such a device years ago. So basically there is no wates that can’t be “burned” in a way that produced a net energy gain.
So many opportunities arise from moving away from solid fuelled reactors.
A major step forward in MSR would be the demonstration of a “fuel cleaning” system that wasn’t classed as reprocessing, since that technology is heavily controlled
Yup, the world needs LFTRs
I thought Bill Gates had invested in a design for a fast breeder reactor, and was about ready to get China to build it, but that was squashed by the government?
The last episode of “Inside Bill’s Brain” on Netflix talked about it.
It seems to me like that’s the best long-term solution. Unfortunately us humans are terrible at long-term thinking. We only plan to the next election.
When depleted uranium (DU) is used for anti-tank munition, the results can be grief. The WHO states:
DU weapons may affect the health of the populations living in the conflict areas in the Gulf and the Balkans. There is speculation that the “Gulf War Syndrome” is linked to DU exposure, but no causal relationship has yet been established.
Frankly using radioactive waste as ammo should be considered a war crime and the user should be mandated to either clean up or cough up the money to perform the cleanup, failure to comply should result in sanctions. And by cleanup I mean complete cleanup, not just picking up the big pieces.
If both EU and the goddamn friggin’ Russians as well can develop and use tungsten alloys that match and/or exceed DU in performance, so can the US. Being lazy is not a valid excuse.
Depleted Uranium is not “waste”. It is naturally occurring U-238 in highly concentrated metallic form alloyed with titanium. There actually is little clean up necessary. It would have been good if they had gone around the Gulf War battlefields and just picked up the spent DU rounds laying on the ground or being slightly under it. That would have killed the false claims that there are massive amounts of dust, when in fact most of the DU penetrators are substantially if not totally intact and just oxidizing away. The article falsely claims that the heat of penetration ignites DU particles. The whole idea of the kinetic energy penetrator round is that the sabot fills the round out from the penetrator to the barrel and that allows all of the energy from the propellant to be used to accelerate the penetrator to Mach 4+ as it leaves the 120mm cannon barrel of the M1 Abrams tank. The sabots separate some time after the round leaves the barrel and they can fly off as much as a 100 meters either side of the the flight path of the penetrator. This makes the DU penetrator unable to be used to support infantry since they can be killed by the sabots. Now, the penetrator at Mach 4+ decelerates very rapidly when it hits the target tank’s armor. This generates intense heat making the penetrator near white hot and this intense heat sets off the on-board ammunition and fuel stores, destroying the target tank. There are chips of uranium that are shed during self-sharpening, but those spontaneously ignite and burn as a result of the pyrophoric characteristic of uranium metal. Very small pieces of uranium metal oxidize so rapidly that they burst into flame. The main penetrator, however does not burn, it is just near white hot and it passes completely through the target tank and through the armor plate on the other side and lands a few meters beyond the target tank on the ground. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) made three scientific field investigations of the use of DU in the Balkans (all of the rounds were the 30mm cannon round fired by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) and these are 16mm in diameter DU penetrator completely surrounded by 7mm thick aluminum shroud that functions as the sabot but does not separate until the round hits a hard target (so misses often just completely bury in the ground and the uranium core is never exposed to the environment). These reports are at
Depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro
UNEP Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment
in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
UNEP Final Report: Depleted Uranium in Kosovo – Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, 2001.
UNEP Depleted Uranium in Bosnia and Herzegovina Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment
The Serbs pretend that these reports do not exist. They are never mentioned on the websites that claim cancers and birth defects since the UNEP did not find them to be there or caused by DU. I personally tracked down one alleged birth defect claimed by Robert C Koehler with the photo allegedly from Afghanistan by Mohammed Daud Miraki, who has lived near Chicago since his father and family escaped from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. None of the claimed birth defects due to DU are ever named because if you know the name, you can research it and learn the most likely cause and learn that the accusation against DU is totally bogus. Koehler posted Miraki’s alleged Afghan photo of a standing child with two bulging blood red eyes. If I knew how to post the actual photo here, I would do so. It took me a long time to find out what this was. A Google Image search referred back to various reposts of Koehler’s article and DU and radiation. Then I found the real name – Fumigating Retinoblastoma and there is a wealth of information for that. Notably, this eye cancer which can be found in newborns was first noted in Amsterdam in the 1600s, Uranium was discovered in 1789 and radioactivity was discovered a century later. This cancer clearly was not caused by exposure to DU.
If anyone wants to contact me, try DUstory dash owner at yahoogroups dot com and if that bounces, look for answers in Quora about depleted uranium by a Roger – that most likely will be me and I can be messaged there. I have been researching DU as a deadly serious hobby for over 15 years. I really hate lies and liars and I know a lot about the lies and the liars. Strangely, I have found very little fact about DU even in the Wikipedia where fact and fiction are mixed together and the people who favor the fiction closely monitor edits and change any edit that they do not like back to the original fictional version.
the above was originally to reply to this part of the original article with the excellent graphic of the 120mm main gun round for the M1 Abrams Tank –
When a depleted uranium warhead hits a target, it fractures in a way that causes it to remain sharp, while the heat of the impact helps ignite the resulting cloud of depleted uranium particles. This makes such rounds highly effective in such roles, often replacing other high-density materials like tungsten.
DU is not a warhead; it is a penetrator. The 120mm main gun round that is illustrated has a long rod penetrator, The penetrator does shed small particles of DU in order to maintain a sharp point. No other material that was tested by the Army in the mid-70s maintained a sharp point. All other materials blunted on impact and had a mushroom shape which kept the pentetrator from going through the armor plate target. The DU penetrator was designed to kill the then Soviet Bloc tanks in the mid-70s, which were immune to then current anti-tank ammunition.
I wanted to make sure that “heat of the impact helps ignite the cloud of DU particles” is stated as being incorrect. The intense heat generated on impact – intense speed when abruptly sllowed on impact becomes intense heat and the penetrator becomes white hot. That white hot metal is not burning uranium. The small flakes and chips that are shed in self-sharpening oxidize so rapidly that they burst into flames much like large sparks from sparklers travelling at very high speed or bouncing off the exterior of the tank. These have minimal effect in killing the target tank; they do not have enough heat to ignite and explode the propellant charge in the target tank’s on-board ammunition, but that near white hot penetrator does.
Excellent post. Thanks for making sense of the lightweight article.
It should also be noted that Pres. Carter restricted the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, thus resulting in larger quantities of “waste”. I do not know whether this restriction continues, but with 97% of the “waste” still viable for further use, it makes sense to take advantage of it.
PS – Tungsten is also a toxic heavy metal, perhaps even more so than uranium. You have relied too much on the many professional liars about DU that abound on the internet.
See my answer below that cites the UNEP Reports about three of the Balkan sites. Nothing that Serbia puts out is accurate. They have had a campaign of lies for a long time. They constantly complain of DU bombs, yet DU never has been used in any bomb so a photo of a building that was bombed has nothing to do with DU except on Serbian websites. The NY Times article is probably just old information. I can not read it without subscribing. There was speculation way back in the early 90s that Gulf War Syndrome, now called Gulf War Illness (GWI) could have been caused by exposure to DU. That was long ago, certainly before 2000, to not be true. Another answer below says more about GWI. I don’t think you have been to recent WHO site and may be relying on some article that is quoting WHO at some time almost 20 years ago.
No mention of, besides being weakly radioactive that uranium is also a toxic metal (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium#Effects_and_precautions ). Although I suppose that you would never include the typical 2% arsenic 98% lead alloy in traditional bullets as being a toxic metals either. But military do use full metal jackets on those, I wonder does depleted uranium munition also get a full metal jacket for safety.
The bronze(?) jacket is not so much about protecting the shooter than protecting the target. No matter how strange it sounds it is illegal to sell any other kind of bullets for use against human targets. The jacket removes the shrapnel effect and significantly reduces the damage inflicted to the target.
Clarification: use of non-jacketed slugs is prohibited in international military conflicts (I believe by Geneva convention or similar) but is not illegal in other senses (obviously varying by jurisdiction).
In USA hollow point and other expanding rounds are used commonly by police and civilians for their greater effectiveness and safety against human targets. And ironically I believe the mortality rate is lower for incidents involving hollow point bullets vs full metal jacket. The reason is hollow points are more likely to stop the target in fewer hits. Full metal jacket bullets tend to go through targets requiring a greater number of hits to stop.
And reason I say safer is specifically in police and self defense shootings it is possible there are bystanders who could be injured or killed by rounds that have over-penetrated people or objects. Hollow point bullets usually stop in the target and are (probably marginally) less problematic in ricochet and missed target situations.
The jackets also serve to lubricate the barrel, at least in larger guns.
A major difference being that lead doesn’t really burn. Uranium has the unpleasant property of shedding fine, hot particles which ignite in the air, producing all sorts of nasty, toxic, compounds which can be inhaled or ingested.
Granted, if you’re in the middle of a war, toxic dust in the air is probably a less pressing concern to you than all the non-toxic bullets and shells flying around, but heavy metal poisoning does seem to be a factor in weird chronic issues in some infantry soldiers after returning from the Middle East .
When DU self-sharpens as it goes through armor plate, it sheds small particles that spontaneously burn and become DU-oxide dust. As you note, this is a heavy metal and thus toxic for that reason. It has not been found to have caused any weird chronic issues. It is not the cause of Gulf War Illness (GWI). It was once thought to be the cause, but that has long ago ceased to be true. There have been some claims and those seem to always make the news media, but none of the claims has been really genuine and the news media folks know absolutely nothing about either depleted uranium or GWI. A leading researcher into GWI is Dr Beatrice Golomb at the UC San Diego.
As a sport shooter 20 years ago, we always considered the issues of lead toxicity, and worse, the molybdenum and other alloys that were used on high-end competition rounds.
We had a strict no eating/drinking in indoor ranges rule; it was a bit more relaxed on outdoor ranges, due to matches running an hour or more, but we strongly encouraged people to wash hands after shooting / before eating.
Another rarely looked at problem with nuclear reactors is that eventually you have to decommission them. At the heart of every reactor is a schoolbus to small house size cylinder of armor hard steel which has been subjected to decades of neutron bombardment. These thing are so radioactive that people cannot spend much time around them, much less attack them with grinders and cutting torches. Most are too big and heavy to move as is. Given their high radiation rate they will probably not be a problem after a few decades, but the idea of a bunch of these things sitting around in abandoned buildings is enough to give anybody the willies.
Maybe they could be used for food preservation…
Or cooking food :)
Back in the 60’s there used to be a facility called the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory ( GNAL ), deep in the woods near Dawsonville Georgia which was essentially a big _unshielded_ reactor that would rise out of a pit in the ground to irradiate “large” test items, like whole aircraft assemblies.
Basically they’d push airplane parts up to the pit, and clear away. The reactor would rise up inside a radiation-transparent building, start up, soak everything in the area with radiation for a while, then drop back down.
Apparently, one of the weirdest parts of working with an “air shielded” reactor is that as you approached the pit you would find dead animals that would never decay – the bacteria and insects that would normally do the job were all dead, too.
my uncle who is a licensed property inspector once described how he inspected a basement of a very old house that had a small well in it, so it was quite damp, but the old woodden supports and beams never rotted, they were perfectly fine.
Reason was the radon levels were in excess of 100x the allowed amount :D
Kind of expensive though.
The original reactor in Oak Ridge used to make plutonium was turned into a museum with plastic dummies standing nearest the cores.
Once fusion gets going (tick, tock, there goes one decade after another…), reactors will, in theory, be quite good for burning up spent fuel.
In essence, since there’s not enough tritium to run a commercial fusion reactor, the first ones will need to bread tritium:
And while the ITER article suggests spillating neutrons out of lead nuclei, it’s much easier to get multiply neutrons by both spillating and triggering fission events.
Multiplying neutrons is required as each neutron if captured by lithium can split it, producing tritium, and many neutrons will miss. Thus to make up for this loss, some gain is required, and to generate a surplus for future reactors, even more gain is required. Couple that with a short shelf life and all of a sudden neutron multiplication would ideally be turned up to 11.
A side win from this, is any fission that is triggered by the fusion neutron flux will also generate useful heat.
That is doable now, if the fusion costs you energy the heat from the fission it triggers will give you back your energy, and enough spare to produce additional electrical power for the grid.
Another use for nuclear waste… Food suplement for Justin Bieber Fans?
Well it is a tasty snack…
This is really just the industry trying to find more ways to poison the planet…these ghouls should be ?
The military uses spent uranium for it’s armor piercing ammunition for that purpose, called UMPs and sub designated if they are high explosive, incendiary or shrapnel e.g. UMPhe, UMPin and UMPsh with every fourth round a tracer. The uranium inner case is similar to a Civil War Minnie ball.
I see now somebody has already post the military use of it. Great graphics too.
Jim, I beg to differ with you on pretty much all points. DU is not spent uranium (that is uranium from spent fuel) it is the depleted tail of the uranium enrichment process and is greater than 99.4% pure U-238 alloyed with titanium. All DU kinetic energy penetrator rounds are cylindrical rods with a sharp point – the illustration above is of the 120mm main gun round for the M1 Abrams tank – the penetrator is just 22mm in diameter. The other commonly found penetrator is that for the 30mm cannon round fired by the A-10. This is 16mm in diameter and much shorter in length but completely surrounded by a 7mm aluminum shroud. The 30mm cannon’s Combat Mix ammunition load is 4 rounds of Armor Piercing Incendiary (API) followed by 1 round of High Explosive Incendiary (HEI). I am not sure where you got the idea of UMPs. All DU penetrator rounds are armor piercing. DU is not really effective against any other target but a tank. If a DU round hits any other target, it will mainly just punch a small hole in it. It will not explode. It will not act like shrapnel. The 30mm API round, though, does have a small incendiary charge at the base of the penetrator and I think that is mainly just to help the pilot check his or her aim. The 5th round, the HEI round actually explodes and has a substantial incendiary charge as well so it blows things up and sets them on fire. The A-10 also can carry pure HEI ammunition and this was the load in Afghanistan and Libya and most of the missions in Syria (two missions against ISIS oil tank trucks in 2015 were flown with Combat Mix) and Iraq. The uranium penetrator is not like a Civil War Minnie ball – it is not spherical – it is a sharp pointed rod that maintains its point by self-sharpening when it hits armor plate. See my other answer today for even more.
So what lobbying group, defense contractor or nation state do you work for exactly? You seem to be big into selling people on the idea that DU is the greatest thing since sliced bread…. My bullshit detector is going berserk. Who on earth has a “deadly serious DU hobby” other than someone trying to sell the shit?
Or perhaps on the legal team for someone being sued for it….?
So, you reject information from a knowledgeable source because it disagrees with your biases? That’s not an open minded discussion. If you have problems with any of the points made, then please state them for discussion. Attributing malicious motives to those you may disagree with is narrow minded in the extreme.
“Roger” seems to have plenty of his own biases, so spare us the holier-than-thou act. This is more a case where one should not attribute malicious motives where actions are adequately explained by stupidity.
C-14 sounds safer than the Plutonium powered pacemakers of the 70’s. Although that 88 year half life for RTG kept battery change-out to a minimum!
Does this mean we’re finally going to turn Kalkar on?
It took 13 years to build, cost 4 Billion, and then some politicians decided nuclear was “uncool” and the reactor was turned into a themepark.
Not uncool, extremely dangerous.
ever heard of Superphénix ? (super dangerous, or super bullshit, or super unreliable, or super shitty to maintain, or super liars “everything works ok!”) … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superph%C3%A9nix
Super easy to hit with an RPG?
I do not believe cost to be the breeder reactor issue. My dad was a nuclear engineer who worked on designs. He said the issue was that all plans for the breeder reactors were nixed after the treaty was signed banning any/all reprocessing of nuclear “waste”. Cost may have come to be a factor as low education/non understanding people block nuclear power “in favor” of “the environment”, yet they stop the cleanest energy we have, and when paired with a breeder reactor, even cleaner.
Have there been high profile issues? Yup. Chernobyl you all should realize was an idiot trying to prove how great he was, ignoring the reactor design (positive feedback), and disabling safety systems.
TMI: Its sad it took this tragic, but in the end, still safe issue to teach spring actuated components are a no go, and sight glass systems can “lie”. That particular issue has been repaired.
Fukushima: They were warned their diesel backup generator snorkels were not tall enough for the size of tsunamis that hit the area. It should have never happened, and was NOT a failure of the reactor itself.
So 2 of the 3 disasters should never have happened, and weren’t based on any lack of understanding by scientists about reactors or nuclear power in general. The third was probably similar, as I’m sure there was an engineer out there yelling and screaming just like the NASA guy complaining about the O ring, but enough people believed the systems to be sufficient that they were overruled. We learned from our mistakes.
So we have safe, clean, and could be cleaner energy, and could be cheaper energy. I sometimes wonder if it has been regulated to expensive levels to make solar and wind “competitive”.
Regardless, we have the “waste”, lets renegotiate the treaty to allow breeders, and process our “waste” which should be able to fuel us past the time we get a breakthrough on fusion.
The PR issue for nuclear power is that people keep saying “it shouldn’t have happened” and “It wasn’t our fault”, when the point for the public is that it shouldn’t have happened at all, no matter what the reason.
The problem is that the public has been taught through multiple decades of propaganda, to treat any kind of nuclear accident as the worst possible. For example, the movie The China Syndrome came out just months before TMI and made what would have otherwise been a minor setback into major public hysteria. Even today, popular media likes to tell stories about how Chernobyl could have blown up half of Europe in a nuclear explosion, and this was just barely avoided (or still possible).
When people believe such things, they are not happy in you saying that the probability of an accident is one in ten thousand reactor years, because they understand it to meant that no matter what, there will still be an accident that kills or poisons half the world and causes a nuclear holocaust. Even if in reality, the “accident” is a fart of xenon and a broken powerplant.
“Chernobyl you all should realize was an idiot trying to prove how great he was, ignoring the reactor design (positive feedback), and disabling safety systems.”
Who is this “idiot trying to prove how great he was” you’re referring to? Because that’s not exactly what happened as far as I understand it.
block 4 throwing it’s lid through the roof had more causes leading up to said incident, not necessarily in this order :
1) the designer of the RBMK 1000 reactor was a “little” too enthusiastic about it’s safety and managed to convince way too many people that it was somehow impossible for it to be dangerous, when in fact it had quirks that made it dangerous in certain situations. One could say that because he knew what he was doing, he was downright liying.
2) RBMK was in fact a plutonium breeder reactor scaled waaay up and slightly altered to primarily produce energy instead of plutonium (it could still do that though, there’s evidence in Chernobyl suggesting they were doing some breeding). It’s not like they didn’t have alternatives to this design, the VVER was well tried and tested even back then, it was just nowhere near as powerful and yet cost more per unit.
3) because of 2), RBMK was preferred, more could be built with the same pile of Rubles. Because of 1), expensive things like THE GODDAMN CONTAINMENT were deemed unnecessary, as said pile of Rubles was not all that big.
4) because of 2) and 1) combined, many aspects of the reactor were kept top secret, including the positive void coefficient AND the fact that they had a similar incident with one earlier. Had this been known to the operators, I have no problem believing they would’ve told Dyatlov to go…where the sun don’t shine…with his test even knowing that it would cause problems for their careers.
5) In the Soviet union, everything had a production plan. Being ahead of it meant promotions (even if you didn’t need the excess of product), being behind was bad. Very bad. The power station also had a plan. Shutting down the reactor for a proper, as-the-manual-dictated, iodine pit recovery would have meant about 2 days of no production. This could have meant more then just not getting a bonus for all of the managers and workers.
Despite what it may be depicted like in the movie series, Chernobyl was very much above what was considered the normal living standard in the Union, you did NOT want to loose a good job like that.
6) You never ever pull out ALL the control rods out of a working reactor. Never. Very bad things can and will happen if you try.
Dyatlov being ignorant was just the final nail in the coffin.
“Chernobyl you all should realize was an idiot trying to prove how great he was, ignoring the reactor design (positive feedback), and disabling safety systems.”
Ignoring the positive void coefficient of the reactor was inevitable given that the report pointing that fact out [along with the unfortunate consequences of SCRAMing the graphite-tipped control rods] had been made a state secret.
Ah, that’s a relief. Now those two accidents that shouldn’t have happened have happened, no more accidents will happen. At least not intentionally, anyway.
Areas of opportunity for advancing society and humanity. No need for more Pan Troglodyte or Bonobos ways and means interfering with advancing domesticated civilized dealing with every growing populations and limited resource management in more times of peace society. Profit motives are an incentive… however, with some systems where survival is the requirement… uhm… I think we all want to live healthier in a younger genetic age body for a longer life cycle. Nuclear Power is a way and we all need to take our time to think about moving forward with Technology in healthy and safe ways. Utilizing resources in contained secure effective ways can be done, needs to be done and will be done… will be nice in our life-cycle humanely.
Trim weights in aircraft – such as the 747-100
Good old Boeing.
That was until a El Al Cargo 747 with one crashed into an Amsterdam residential neighborhood shortly after takeoff in 1992, yikes, not really something you want falling out of the sky is it
The fact is U233 has far superior thermal
efficiency than U235 in a power reactor.
But the DOE will not make the transition to the
better feed stock because the DOE is a
creation of the Defense Department.
We could have been using U233, with a
tungsten reflector, and dual heat pipes
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