Friday, March 23, 2018

Making Nuclear Reactors Great Again

  Nuclear reactors release energy when U-235 undergoes fission. Apparently that's a reasonably simple process. Usually water is used to dampen that so the heat and energy is moderated. one would think that something besides water could be used and it probably has; maybe sodium or something.

  Nuclear reactors have sometimes had their energy runaway and causing meltdown of the unit and of course contamination as radioactive fallout and such things are as harmful for human prospects for life on Earth as basic environmental damage that significantly harms the ecosphere and people too. Thus its a good idea that continuing research on safe reactor design and alternative mediums for capturing the fissile energy release safely.

  Russia and China have some very small nuclear reactors used commercially as well as the very large, yet they are still rather substantial in weight and possibly not valuable in the forseeable future for providing energy to electrify barren outer solar system moons cleanly. One might like to find dampening moderators that occurs simply as superconducting materials or batteries; solids that don't require liquid water; so rare in some places beyond the other.

  Not all solid moderators are without implications for bomb making of course. Graphite is used as a moderator at Oak Ridge to compile plutonium for weapons and of course to power satellites like Voyageur. The value of creating safe solid moderators for in-line superconducting and of a very light weight structure that could be placed by drones and robots on distant lifeless moons without enough sunlight for solar power to speak of, would advance manned space exploration and research colonization.

The Earth economy probably doesn't need much more than solar power and super-conductors of course, yet that can't be said of distant worlds that people  may want to vacation and live on in the next century.

The Brits made a gas cooled and graphite moderating reactor among others, based on the Magnox reactor design.