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Doofus writes "Masao Yoshida, director of the Daichii Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, has passed away. Colleagues and politicos in Japan praised his disobedience during the post-tsunami meltdown and credited him with preventing much more widespread and intense damage. From the article: 'On March 12, a day after the tsunami, Mr. Yoshida ignored an order from Tepco headquarters to stop pumping seawater into a reactor to try and cool it because of concerns that ocean water would corrode the equipment. Tepco initially said it would penalize Mr. Yoshida even though Sakae Muto, then a vice president at the utility, said it was a technically appropriate decision. Mr. Yoshida received no more than a verbal reprimand after then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan defended the plant chief, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. "I bow in respect for his leadership and decision-making," Kan said Tuesday in a message posted on his Twitter account.'"

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An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a look at the engine behind SpaceX's Falcon rocket, the Merlin: "The rockstar of SpaceX may be Elon Musk, but the lead man behind the fire power is Tom Mueller. He is the Vice President of Propulsion Development and founding employee at SpaceX. Musk sought Mueller out in 2001 when Musk decided to build his own rockets instead of buying some from the Russians. Musk caught wind of a rocket engine Mueller built in his garage and 'apparently had a religious experience' once he saw it. If you didn't know, Elon Musk used $100 million of his Paypal money to start SpaceX. That money was used to build the Merlin engine Mueller had designed. The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in the last 25 years."

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How Thorium can save the world: Salim Zwein at TEDxBeirut 2012

Staunch environmentalist, Salim Zwein informs us on Thorium; a cheap, efficient, clean and abundant energy source with the capacity to replace Uranium as a nuclear fuel, and turn the nuclear industry into a safe, environmental alternative. szwein@gmail.com F: Salim Zwein T: @SalimZwein S: salimzwein AboutTEDx In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations).
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Covalent writes "The Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator and the 'Big Bang machine' that was used to discover what appears to be the long-sought Higgs boson particle (as announced July 4), may have another surprise up its sleeve this year: The LHC looks to have produced a new type of matter, according to a new analysis of particle collision data by scientists at MIT and Rice University. The new type of matter, which has yet to be verified, is theorized to be one of two possible forms: Either 'color-glass condensate' — a flattened nucleus transformed into a 'wall' of gluons, which are smaller binding subatomic particles, or it could be 'quark-gluon plasma,' a dense, soup or liquid-like collection of individual particles."

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mdsolar sends this quote from an article at the NY Times:
"All but two of Japan's 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan — once one of the world's leaders in atomic energy — will have at least temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its electricity. With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders."


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The Obama administration's Department of Energy, led by Steven Chu, has taken a "portfolio" approach to easing the country into a future in which we're less reliant on fossil fuels. Instead of betting on a single technology to solve all our problems, the DOE has been pushing a mix of renewables, efficiency measures, and nuclear power. After having licensed the first new nuclear plant in decades, the DOE has now reached agreements with companies that are trying to develop an alternative to these large facilities.

Rather than building large, Gigawatt-scale reactor buildings, several companies are developing what are termed small, modular nuclear reactors that produce a few hundred Megawatts of power. These are typically designed to be sealed units that simply deliver heat for use either directly or to generate electricity. When the fuel starts to run down, the reactors will be shipped back to a central facility for refueling. Since they will never be opened on site, many of the issues associated with large plants don't come into play.

The new agreements, set up with Hyperion Power Generation, SMR, and NuScale Power, will give the companies access to the DOE's Savannah River National Lab, with the intention of having them develop sites there for a test installation. Ultimately, the test installations are intended to provide data that will go into the licensing of these new designs. Chu, in announcing the agreement, stated, "We are committed to restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing the next generation of these technologies."

We'll be running a feature on the future of nuclear power in the US early next week.

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cylonlover writes "This year is a historic one for nuclear power, with the first reactors winning U.S. government approval for construction since 1978. Some have seen the green lighting of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built in Georgia as the start of a revival of nuclear power in the West, but this may be a false dawn because of the problems besetting conventional reactors. It may be that when a new boom in nuclear power comes, it won't be led by giant gigawatt installations, but by batteries of small modular reactors (SMRs) with very different principles from those of previous generations. However, while it's a technology of great diversity and potential, many obstacles stand in its path. This article takes an in-depth look at the many forms of SMRs, their advantages, and the challenges they must overcome."


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