Tag: Nuclear Reactors

Pique the Geek 20110403: How Nuclear Reactors Work. Part the Third

The past two weeks we have been looking about current nuclear technology for power production.  Almost all of the plants currently in commercial production are the so called Generation II and Generation III plants, and the most advanced ones are sometimes called Generation III+.  This evening we shall examine nuclear technologies that are not yet used for commercial production.

These designs are called Generation IV plants, and may either be prototypes or merely designs that have not yet even had a prototype built, but appear to be feasible to come on line commercially by 2030 or so, give or take.  There is also a Generation V set of concepts, but they are much further out as far as construction of even a prototype in concerned, and we shall not consider them here.

Pique the Geek 20110320: How Nuclear Reactors Work Part the First

With the news about the horrible failure of the nuclear reactors in Japan, it occurred to me that many people do not really understand how nuclear reactors work.  This is the first part of a short series designed to demystify how nuclear reactors work.

All methods for generation of usable amounts of electricity require some sort of energy source.  In photovoltaic units, the electromagnetic energy in solar (or other) photons is the energy source.  In geothermal plants, the interior heat energy from the earth is used, whilst in wind plants the kinetic energy of moving air is used.  Hydroelectric plants use the kinetic energy of moving water.

Fossil fuel fired plants use the potential energy contained in coal, oil, or gas by converting it to heat by combustion.  Finally, nuclear electricity uses the potential energy of a very few heavy elements’ nuclei that is released as heat in the reactor.

Fallout has reached Southern California! UPDATE!

UPDATE:  “Japan raised the nuclear alert level from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts who thought it should be higher.”  Please see my Comment below:  “Thanks, RiaD!”

(cross-posted at firefly-dreaming.com)

From the AP:  Diplomat says minuscule fallout reaches Calif.

– 1 hr 50 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Government experts in the United States are keeping a close eye on any radioactive particles that could travel from Japan, and they may already be seeing trace amounts.

A diplomat who has access to radiation tracking by the U.N.’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization told The Associated Press in Vienna that initial readings show tiny amounts of radiation have reached California. But it’s not dangerous in any way – “about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the organization does not make its findings public.

U.S. government experts also insist there’s no threat to public health from the plume, but they are still closely monitoring the situation with detection monitors deployed along the West Coast. . . . (emphasis mine)

Obama also sought to reassure the nation:

Obama’s statement came as he tried to reassure a worried nation that “harmful levels” of radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster are not expected to reach the U.S., even as other officials conceded it could take weeks to bring the crippled nuclear complex under control. . . .

I went to NukeFree.Org, which has on-going updates of the whole situation.  I noted the following — and while I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the content and I confess utter ignorance in the premises, I do know there are always attempts to downplay bad situations.