Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heat from Nuclear Fission and Decay: Using it More Wisely

SpaceflightNow via Brian Wang

Most electrical power is generated from heat: either combustion heat or the heat of nuclear fission and decay. I was disappointed many years ago when I first learned that nuclear power plants generate their huge production of power using primitive heat -- just like coal and gas plants. But as long as we are using heat, we may as well use it more efficiently and more ingeniously.

US NASA is proposing an advanced sterling radioisitope generator (ASRG) for powering space missions -- because the sterling engine provides greater efficiency for the limited amount of fuel allowed on weight-sensitive space missions.
...each ASRG creates between 130 and 140 watts of electricity with 1 kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds, of plutonium-238. More than four times more plutonium would be required to generate the same power in an existing RTG, according to the Energy Department.

Officials want to complete extensive ground testing and a low-cost flight demonstration before flying ASRGs on a multi-billion dollar flagship mission. _SpaceFlightNow_via_BrianWang

The same principle could be used for low power generators powered by "nuclear batteries" of various types, for remote location applications. Arctic and antarctic locations in particular cry out for low power nuclear battery applications, as would deep undersea locations.

Another way of using the heat of nuclear decay more efficiently is by making better use of waste heat from conventional nuclear power.
Nuclear desalination uses the excess heat from a nuclear power plant to evaporate sea water and to condense the pure water. Writing in the appropriately named International Journal of Nuclear Desalination, a team from India and Italy argue that despite public concerns, the low energy costs and convenience of this latter process make it the preferred option. _SD
Waste heat from many industrial sources is seriously underutilised. For nuclear power plants located along salt water estuaries and coastlines, the combination of power-production and nuclear desalination should have been implemented long ago.

Other uses for the waste heat of nuclear reactors include the production of more electrical power by a wide range of means, process heat for industry, and comfort space heating in winter.

Western societies are being squeezed into energy starvation by their well-meaning but stupid politicians, academics, and media personalities. Greater efficiencies from currently existing plants will be one way to survive this designed energy starvation. Many other inventions and workarounds will be required if humans are not to be herded like lemmings off the cliffs, by their lefty-Luddite green dieoff.orgiasts in charge.

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