The First Nuclear Textbook?

Yesterday, we had one of the nicer yet stranger events during this wholly strange time - that is, the meeting of the American Nuclear Society's Book Publishing Committee, of which yours truly is the Vice Chair.  I say "nicer" because I always look forward to these meetings, given the opportunity they afford to interact with some of ANS' finest people and the fact that these meetings really get things done.  I say "stranger" because it was a Zoom meeting and not face to face, around a table.  What's even more impacting for me is the fact that the BPC meeting usually is the first event I attend at ANS' Annual and Winter meetings and it serves, thus, as the best possible kickoff for me.  November, maybe.  Maybe.

Closer Than We Think

I'm writing this on National Maritime Day 2020, a day in which we think of and thank all those who have worked on the water moving people and things.  Our nation's maritime history isn't as long as that of some other nations but it has been rich and, worldwide, significant.  We've contributed a number of "firsts."

Thoughts on THRESHER

As is the case on every 10APR, I find myself – even in the midst of the present national and, really, worldwide crisis – returning to thoughts of the USS THRESHER on this date in 1963. All of us who have been through the Naval Nuclear Power Program and served in submarines are aware to greater or lesser extent what happened; my experience, having served aboard one of the SUBSAFE boats whose development was a direct result of the accident, lends perhaps to more sustained reflection.

Army Off-Road Nuclear Train – 1958

At the end of the 1950’s the US Army was looking at its entire operational sphere to determine in what areas nuclear energy could be of benefit. While many of these are fairly well known today – for example, the small nuclear plants that were to have been installed at remote locations for powering bases like the Defense Early Warning stations – there are a few applications that remain obscure.

Nuclear Energy for Quarantined Kids – and Everyone!

More and more folks are having to essentially home-school their children or relatives’ children as this whole virus thing plays out – and they are benefiting from a tremendous effort on the part of educators everywhere as transition is made to sent-out and, increasingly, remote educational materials. I thought it might be useful to present, with commentary, some short nuclear energy videos that you could watch or use if you check down through materials or want to supplant them. (We really do have to take a moment to applaud our educators, everywhere, for what they’re facing – and the administrators as well.)

Power and Promise: Early Atomic Power in Film!

Our ANS Nuclear Cafe matinee feature this week is a fascinating in-depth look at the fabrication of major components for, and the construction of, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station. In this film you’ll get to see some very interesting, rarely seen things; I will add some comments above and beyond what’s described in the film below.

Replacing Fossil with Nuclear – Five Fast Thoughts!

This week I had some considerable interaction on social media in the area of replacing fossil power at existing sites with micro reactors or SMR’s (Small Modular Reactors.) As we see real progress happening now in these exciting reactor fields (NuScale and Oklo come to mind first, but there are others!) I’d like to share five things to think about as we begin to seriously consider replacing fossil power (coal, oil) at particular sites with nuclear.

Good... and Bad/Worse

Friends and colleagues - Usually I write about "the old days" of nuclear in this space but something came up in current events that really sticks in my craw, and I have to shine the spotlight on it here.  So please indulge me and read along.  (We'll get back to "the old days" soon enough, don't you worry!)

The Strangest Things

Over the years that I've been writing for ANS, I've managed largely through that association to come into possession of a number of fairly odd things.  I mean, all of us have things that the "normal person" (and by that I mean non-nuclear) would find pretty strange, but I'm telling you I have some strange things that are a bit further out than garden-variety strange.  I'd like to tell you about just two.

SMR's, Ships, and History

As we start 2020 I find myself thinking about the slew of articles and posts that I'm seeing about SMR's - that is to say, Small Modular Reactors.  Many are written by knowledgeable people, many not so much - but in some places I've started to see some references to the pollution caused by heavy ocean shipping and whether or not we could use SMR's to stop that by converting ships to nuclear power.  Well, let's not rush into this - after all, all of the "consideration" phase was done once before and there was in fact ocean-going hardware.  So, keeping in mind that it's the holiday season, I'd like to just offer up a quick look at what was considered and what was surprisingly found out to be true in regards to nuclear cargo or passenger ships in the 1950's and 1960's.  I hope this is new for many of you!

More Nuclear for Mexico?

Laguna Verde c Morrison Knudsen UEC

Mexico's Laguna Verde nuclear plant sits at a beautiful location in Veracruz. This plant has operated successfully for three decades. Photo courtesy Morrison-Knudsen / United Engineers & Constructors.

Nuclear power never really did take off in Mexico; although the populous nation seriously considered nuclear energy for a variety of purposes it ended up with just a single commercial plant.  It is beginning to look like that might change, sooner or later.

Atoms in the Ice

December 5 marks the anniversary of the launch of the first nuclear powered icebreaker, the Lenin, in what at that time was the Soviet Union.  The job that icebreakers perform is among the very most demanding that any type of seagoing vessel endures due to the environment, the remoteness, and the tremendous stresses on the ship itself.  As it turns out, it's a perfect application for nuclear energy.  Let's take a look at this historic ship, its design and the operation of icebreakers with a variety of photos from my library.

Thermal System Coupling - from the 2019 ANS Winter Meeting

It's no secret that public will and a great deal of marketing have combined to legislate large amounts of renewable energy onto parts of the US grid (and indeed grids around the world.)  The challenges that this brings are particularly severe for nuclear energy, which is commonly threatened when expected to operate in an environment where everything else has to "get out of the way" for renewables.  The question is:  Can nuclear play a role if it's coupled with some kind of energy storage?  The early answers seem to be well into the "yes" range, as was explained today during an excellent technical session featuring a number of speakers.

Does TEPCO Have a Nuclear Future?

The ultimate survival of TEPCO as a long term profitable business continues to be in question as the company struggles with the ongoing decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.  In recent times the company has also stated that it will dismantle the other, more southerly nuclear station in Fukushima prefecture.  This leaves TEPCO with only one nuclear plant it can return to operation, and from which it can generate revenue in order to survive (although it has considerable other generating assets).  Will that happen?  The answer is only a "maybe," although the company is certain it's "yes."

Hallam Nuclear Station on 1960's TV!

This week's enhanced Friday Matinee feature is a fascinating, albeit short, compilation of television clips that were made at Sheldon Station in Nebraska.  This pioneering power station included a very modern coal fired facility and the Hallam Nuclear Generating Station, as one interconnected and combined facility.  The original idea was that coal could be used when the nuclear facility was not operating, although it was later planned to add another turbine generator to allow both ends (as it were) to run continuously.  The sodium-cooled Hallam facility was shut down before this happened.