Talk:Nuclear power

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continued discussion from Talk:Equipment_for_autonomous_growth

The Fraunhofer-Institute in Karlsruhe calculated the real costs of nuclear power generation under free market conditions, i.e. without subsidies and including insurance against damage to third parties. This calculation was done on behalf of the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium of the German government. Result: 1.80 Euro per kWh. (Source: Franz Alt, Krieg um Öl oder Frieden durch Sonne. Munich 2004, page 35)

Thanks, Rfc, for the reference. I know that it is hard or sometimes impossible for me to find the sources of things that I remember having read.
When I get around to it we might have an article on Nuclear power. Until then I might say that the difference in cost for liability insurance in different markets reflects the legal environment for suing people liable for a particular sort of damage and the supposed likelihood of such damage. In the Three Mile Island accident in the United Sates of America there was no loss of life shown to be caused by the accident with an estimate that perhaps two additional cancer deaths from radiation exposure in the 10 mile area might eventually result. Some consider that this is the worst nuclear accident ever likely to happen with the current level of safety practices in the U. S. nuclear industry. The Chernobyl accident caused at least 43 deaths directly attributable to the accident. The eventual number of cancer deaths may be about 4000. If it were expected that there were any reasonable probability of an accident like that at Chernobyl happening in a U. S. nuclear plant, I believe all of the nuclear power plants would be shut down regardless of economic damage from the loss of electric power.
It does not seem reasonable to set a cost of insurance for an accident like that at Chernobyl. Insurance takes losses that happen every now and then with some low statistical predictability to members of a large group and distributes the cost among all members of the susceptible group whether they suffer the loss directly or not. That cannot be done with an accident like that at Chernobyl. A sample size of one gives no statistical data. People either decide to accept the risk as a fair trade for the economic benefit or not have nuclear power. Setting insurance rates at $2.30 per kilowatt-hour is deciding not to have nuclear power.
I think the environment that allowed the Chernobyl accident to happen was one of always pretending that things were going well in the Soviet Union and hiding mistakes. Mistakes by government run industries were hidden to the extent that citizens could not complain of damages they suffered caused by negligent agents of government industries. There would be no compensation. It was as if one were struck by lightning and it would not help to seek compensation from the clouds. That is the situation in China today, but not in the U. S. of A. That is why I believe that it is reasonable to allow nuclear electric power generation in the U. S.
Regardless of the situation on Earth, nuclear accidents could not have such great affects on Mars. If a nuclear plant were to explode on Mars it would not be a nuclear bomb just as the Chernobyl disaster did not involve a nuclear bomb. A specific engineering effort must work to make a nuclear bomb or there is no nuclear bomb. A melt-down can result in steam pressure that causes an explosion. On Mars any effort to mine needed material for a colony could scrape a few contaminated centimeters off of a deposit an set it aside. Then the underlying ice (for example) could be mined and safely used. At the worst I might guess four people directly involved in nuclear maintenance at the time of an accident might die from an explosion. I doubt that that bad of an accident would occur because we have learned from past accidents and there is unlikely to be a general practice of hiding all mistakes on Mars. I doubt that a modern industrial economy like that in Germany could exist on only solar and wind derived power. The cost of storing power for when sun and wind fail is considerable. On Mars there is no possible use of fossil fuel for power, but space based solar power could be continuous 24 hours a day every day of the year- Farred 21:23, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Pardon my ignorance. I did not even know that there was a [[Nuclear power]] article attached to this discussion page. I was thinking of an isolated hanging discussion page such as there is at least one of at Lunarpedia. I cannot guarantee that I will put out the effort necessary to improve the article, or that I have the ability. - Farred 03:37, 18 January 2013 (UTC)
Putting on a good show for the space program was not necessarily bad. The Apollo program avoided public display of problems and unpleasant details with the program because a purpose of the program was to display the technological prowess of the United States. A similar attitude was overdone in the space shuttle program, which was overdue for cancellation when it finally ended. The space shuttle expense and lives lost were not all wasted though. The experience can be used as an example of what not to do in a space program. Ignoring mortal dangers and just pressing on is not the way to go. Honest evaluation of nuclear power and all potential aspects of a Mars settlement is called for. - Farred 07:06, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

"small modular reactor" (EM2)

The promotion of this premature technology seems inappropriate. The company in charge is still looking for money to built a first prototype. So, we can not say that it has been "developed". Compared with fusion reactors, the EM2 seems to be even less ready for use. A mere theoretical concept. A legitimate way of including this concept in our article could be to mention this concept as a possible future development, after listing the really existing technologies. -- Rfc 19:43, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

Apparently I was careless of keeping in mind the character of what I read. General Atomics certainly is looking for a few billion dollars of capitol to get this going. I should have particularly noted that no prototype had been built. However, fusion generation of electrical power is nowhere near being ready for use. The small modular reactor is one of a class of fast fission reactors for which prototypes have been produced that generated electricity. The best that fusion power experiments have done so far is to produce about 16 Mw thermal for a fraction of a second.EFDA (European Fusion Development Agreement) The power production was 70% of the required input power. Electrical power production would require a power gain of at least 14 times that amount, production of power equal to 1000% of input power. One can also note that radioactive waste disposal for fusion reactors is still an unsolved problem.
The Russian plans for a nuclear reactor on Mars which are referenced with an external link have not been produced as a prototype yet either. They plan to have one by 2030.
Fission reactors have political problems. I believe much of it is concern for potential use of the technology to produce fission bombs. I can imagine international agreements that would address those concerns satisfactorily. However, people are so perverse that they seem to resist forming such agreements. I see this as part of what is blocking humanity from colonizing space. - Farred 05:30, 20 January 2013 (UTC)

The idea of small and compact breeding reactors looks promising for getting a start in space colonization, I must admit. Just a start. Another good example is the "traveling wave reactor". Still, there is some waste to dispose, even if it is less. And that is one thing. Another thing is that the nuclear fuel is not unlimited, even if this kind of reactor uses the fuel much more efficiently. They are promising to provide all the energy, that mankind needs, for a period of 1000 years. But still limited. And what then? That makes two reasons why I think, the long term power generation technology for space colonies should always be of renewable energy. For Mars this should work well, but the farther away from sun you go, the less sunlight there is. So, for the kuiper belt there is definitely not enough renewable energy.

Have you read Asimov's Foundation novels? The nuclear generators there are really nice, but this is SF. Have you heard about the idea of retrieving energy from the Hawking Radiation of a microscopic black hole, which is fed constantly with small amounts of matter? Such thing would mean to generate energy quite directly from matter. This is actually not SF, because it is proposed by physicists as a possible thing. I am looking forward to see such a generator in the future, but I am afraid I will not live long enough. -- Rfc 20:31, 20 January 2013 (UTC)

Please do not think that small breeder reactors are a known commodity. The reason that a number of prototypes were constructed and people are not making numerous additional breeder reactors to the prototype designs is that the prototypes were not wholly satisfactory. We have learned something from them. For instance, in one fast breeder cooled with liquid sodium the prototype seemed to work well until the steel pipes carrying the sodium coolant developed cracks at the welds. This would seem to indicate that there could be difficulty with a sodium cooled traveling wave reactor too. I would want to know that this concern was particularly addressed before investing in a TWR prototype. I liked the idea of a helium cooled fast breeder reactor because helium is intrinsically non-corrosive. However until a prototype successfully demonstrates a long history of operation, we cannot know that all important design considerations have been properly addressed. The high temperature operation of EM2 should increase efficiency. I suggest that it should be presented in the article as a possibility, but promoting investment in the technology seems outside of Marspedia's purpose. It would be good to have some approximate guideline for what indirectly related technologies should be included in Marspedia and what constitutes unwelcome promotion.
Promoters of fast breeder reactors like to claim that they burn up waste. This is mainly because neptunium-237 is called a waste even though it is potentially usable as fission fuel. The actinides tend to be used up in operation producing heat, but the fission products are mainly not used up. That is most of the waste. It is important to give special consideration to neptunium because it could be used as bomb material. You rightly mention that there is some waste to dispose of. This should be clear whenever the claim of fast breeder reactors burning up waste is made.
I have long considered that space based solar power is the preferred source of electricity on Earth, Mars or Luna. It takes time to develop the process to produce the space based facilities, but I hope that once it is going it will be a source of power that can expand for millennia. Nuclear power is a step along the way.
I have read Asimov's Foundation trilogy in my youth and then again a few years ago. I thought it came to a satisfactory conclusion and I did not understand the requests for a sequel. I read a sequel after it finally came out but considered it less impressive than the original trilogy. Faster than light travel, atomic motors in washing machines, and people using a mental force to read minds and control others are all fantastic things. They can fit in good science fiction if handled according to some internally consistent set of rules that allows intelligent conflict in the plot. I have never considered such SF to predict any real world technology. H. G. Wells' The Land Ironclads is a different sort of science fiction. It did not predict the exact nature of future tanks but presented the rough idea. I have written science fiction too. It is about 900 words on that talk page. I am not up to the standards of Wells and Asimov, but I know what science fiction is. Asimov is a good author to read to improve one's vocabulary and grammar skills. He left us with a considerable legacy. - Farred 09:16, 21 January 2013 (UTC)