Popular Mechanics takes the wind out of renewables study

A wind farm in East Sussex, England, is flanked by 400-kV power lines from the Dungeness nuclear power plant. Photo: David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons

A paper out of the University of Sussex that correlates the carbon output of 123 countries with their nuclear power programs has received a critical look from Popular Mechanics, which takes to task some of the researchers’ premises in an article by Caroline Delbert.

In the paper, the researchers make the claim that nuclear and renewable energy programs do not tend to coexist well together in national low-carbon energy systems but instead crowd each other out and limit effectiveness. Delbert, however, points out that suggesting that nuclear power plants don’t play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions is “wild and baseless.”

Building radiation-resistant and repairable electronics

CMOS sensors such as this could be made more tolerant to ionizing radiation. Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

High-energy radiation can be detrimental to electronic equipment, necessitating the use of radiation-hardened and -resistant electronics in nuclear energy, decommissioning, and space exploration. The online newsletter Tech Xplore reports on a radiation-hardened and repairable integrated circuit being fabricated by researchers at Peking University, Shanghai Tech University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The radiation-immune and repairable circuits developed by the researchers are based on field-effect transistors (FET) that use a semiconducting carbon nanotube transistor as a channel, an ion gel as its gate, and a substrate made of polyimide. According to the article, the FETs have a radiation tolerance of up to 15 Mrad, which is notably higher than the 1 Mrad tolerance of silicon-based transistors. The FETs are also capable of being recovered by annealing at moderate temperatures (100 °C for 10 minutes).

Nuclear power: Are we too anxious about the risks of radiation?

Rowlatt

Following U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent restatement of the United Kingdom’s commitment to nuclear power, BBC News chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, wrote an article aimed at separating fact from fiction regarding the safety and benefits of nuclear energy.

Among his points, Rowlatt defended the use of nuclear power to combat climate change, examined the data behind deaths from radiation exposure directly caused by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, and explained that exposure to low levels of radiation is not a major health risk.

Labor union leader weighs in on closure of Illinois nuclear plants

Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wrote an op-ed published in the September 25 Chicago Sun-Times touting the benefits of nuclear power in Illinois and decrying Exelon’s plan to prematurely shutter the Byron and Dresden plants.

A last look at Fort Belvoir’s SM-1 reactor

A series of photos published by the Washingtonian on September 22 capture rarely seen images of Fort Belvoir’s SM-1 reactor, the U.S. Army’s first nuclear reactor and the first facility in the United States to provide nuclear-generated power to the commercial grid for a sustained period. These images may be some of the last photos of SM-1, as crews are set to begin decommissioning and dismantling the nuclear facility early next year.

Yucca Mountain? The Bulletin says to look elsewhere

Noting that both presidential candidates are opposed to the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada, David Klaus writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “it is time for everyone else to accept that Yucca Mountain is finally off the table, and for the United States to begin to seriously consider realistic alternatives for safely managing the more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel currently sitting at 72 operating and shutdown commercial nuclear reactor sites across the country.”