Sunday, May 06, 2012

After Doomsday: Powering Your Survival Bunker

This satirical article was previously posted on Al Fin Potpourri blog:

After the Apocalypse

After the doomsday bell tolls, you will want to have a safe hideaway, packed with your favourite foods, beverages, people, and prescription drugs. But no matter how safely your bunker is designed, you cannot survive long without a source of heating and electrical power.

Issues of energy density dictate the need for a nuclear power and heat source -- either fission or fusion. The choice seems to come down to either a small modular nuclear fission reactor -- such as the NuScale or Wilcox and Babcock models, vs one of the new scalable fusion reactor models. The Lawrenceville Plasma Physics focus fusion device pictured below, appears to be the leader of the pack in terms of timeline for proof of concept, prototype, commercial demo, and mass production.
All images below taken from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Inc (PDF) (via) NBF

Five megawatts baseload power should be enough to supply the power and heat needs of most medium-sized doomsday communities. When living in an underground environment, it is easy to underestimate needs for space lighting and grow-lighting, as well as power for supplying pumps, compressors, blowers, fans, filtration devices, and various electronic devices.

The diagram above attempts to illustrate energy flows and losses in the focus fusion system. Operation of the reactor will be highly automated, but a certain amount of oversight will be necessary, to assure smooth function and to limit any need for routine maintenance shutdown.

Baseload power generation means that the reactor produces 5 MW at all times. Any heat and power produced above the needs of the doomsday community will converted as needed, and routed to storage or to a sink. Since the reactor utilises hydrogen and boron as fuel, a significant amount of excess power will be used to maintain hydrogen stores. The hydrogen can be used as fuel in either the focus fusion reactor, or in backup fuel cell CHP generators.

The timeline for production of the LPP focus fusion reactors is particularly optimistic, with estimates for mass production as early as 2016.

Keep in mind that US federal and state regulators are unlikely to approve these devices for sale in the US anytime within the next decade. This means that any US citizen wishing to use these reactors as backup power supplies for their home, seastead, polar outpost, or doomsday bunker, will either need to locate outside the US, or will need to find extra-legal ways of installing their nuclear fusion (or SMR fission) reactors within the borders of the US.

In the event of doomsday, it is expected that nuclear enforcement by US federal or state officials will be suspended for a number of years. In such a case, issues of survival are likely to be paramount, over issues of bureaucratic red tape.

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