7 thoughts on “Prospects For Nuclear Power”

  1. We need to release the stranglehold on nuclear power now held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A couple of examples of how bad that stranglehold is.

    1) When I was at DARPA, I visited the Radiation Laboratory at University of Maryland. They have one of the remaining General Atomics TRIGA reactors on campus – in fact, I got to stand on the grating over the reactor pool during a startup, and see first-hand the Cherenkov radiation glow. That reactor has the original fuel load from when it was built in the 1950s, and the original analog control system. TRIGA reactors were designed to be idiot-proof, and have demonstrated the ability to self-regulate from deliberately induced power excursions of several times their maximum rating, and are generally regarded as the safest fission reactors ever built. University of Maryland has had a re-licensing application in with the NRC for 25 years, IIRC. NRC just can’t come to a decision.

    2) Purdue University, my alma mater, has an operating nuclear reactor on site that almost no one knows about. I learned of it as an undergrad back in 1977, but didn’t know much about its history. Turns out the Purdue was a major contributor to the fundamental research supporting the Manhattan Project. It measured the neutron scattering and absorption cross-sections of all of the elements, and even coined the terms “barn” (for cross-sectional “area”) and “shake” (the time-unit convenient for nuclear reactions, 10 nanoseconds). I read an article a couple of months ago that Purdue had recently, finally been granted permission by the NRC to upgrade the control system for its reactor to – brace yourselves – digital control. Not just that, but it would be the first reactor in the United States to have a digital control system.

    If that article was accurate, it’s also reflective of why we don’t have a vibrant nuclear industry. I mean, even the Soviet RBMK reactors have a digital computer control system. Though Chernobyl casts a pall over RBMK safety, it’s undeserved. The reactors have an exemplary safety record; Chernobyl showed what could happen if the operators deliberately disabled and shut down all of the safety systems. They really had to work at it to make it fail.

    Our NRC seems to be populated with Ralph Nader clones.

    1. No argument from me. When I was at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign from lo, back when bell bottom jeans were a thing, I believe we also had a TRIGA reactor. I walked by it daily on my way to class next to the building what at the time was called the Advanced Sciences Laboratory and behind the Physics Dept then housed in a building called Loomis Lab (I think that name has persisted). I don’t know if that reactor is still there or if it’s even in operation anymore.

      The Nuclear Redaction Commission needs a major overhaul starting with it’s parent the DoE. Break it up, reassign its mission and get some real nuclear physicists back in charge. Cause you know, climate change or whatever….

      1. …Advanced Sciences Laboratory…
        Co-Ordinated Sciences Laboratory….
        Dave, your mind is going. You can feel it…

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