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Re: [energyresources] Re: The economics of oofle dust

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  • Roger Arnold
    FWIW, I completely agree with David. Roger Arnold Sunnyvale, CA ... From: David M. Delaney To:
    Message 1 of 7 , May 31 8:37 PM
      FWIW, I completely agree with David.

      Roger Arnold
      Sunnyvale, CA

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "David M. Delaney" <ddelaney@...>
      To: <energyresources@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 2:50 PM
      Subject: [energyresources] Re: The economics of oofle dust


      > This material assumes falsely that power reactors cannot be fuelled
      > with unenriched uranium. There is already one mature and widely
      > deployed nuclear reactor technology, CANDU, that operates entirely on
      > unenriched uranium. All Canadian power reactors are CANDU.
      >
      > It also ignores the spectacular efficiency improvement possible with
      > fast burner technology like the unfortunately cancelled Integral Fast
      > Reactor project, now resurrected as the Advanced Fast Reactor at
      > Argonne Labs. This technology would make it possible to consume all
      > uranium and all its transuranic fission products, hugely reducing
      > waste, but also all thorium, three times more abundant than uranium,
      > which is already abundant.
      >
      > The referenced articles are pathologically partisan, biased, and ill
      > informed.
      >
      > David Delaney, Ottawa
      >
      > <snip>
    • Chris Shaw
      The referenced articles are pathologically partisan, biased, and ill informed. David Delaney, Ottawa Oh... ouch! Fair enough David. But you see, all eyes are
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 1, 2006
        The referenced articles are pathologically partisan, biased, and ill
        informed.

        David Delaney, Ottawa


        Oh... ouch! Fair enough David. But you see, all eyes are on the
        glittering prize of Australia's uranium reserves.

        We are already talking seriously about exporting large quantities of
        enriched uranium - "value adding". The investors are licking their lips.

        No-one has bothered to tell the public of the other waste stream -
        dUF6 - and they are unlikely to get the message other than from
        nutters like me. Sad but true.

        We Australians only know about diggin' it up and shippin' it out. We
        have only one research reactor that can boil a cup of tea.
        Consequently we are coming from a long way behind.

        To make it worse, our government has well established track record of
        not telling the simple truth until it is too late. Fait accompli.

        So there - we are at the beginning of a big argument in this country
        and the race is on for hearts and minds. In the end we all need to
        make sound judgements based on well considered risks. I suppose
        resistance is useless, because the decisions may have already been
        made by others. We did sign a US FTA after all. As a Canadian, you
        would know all about that.

        Keep a good eye on Australia - and give us the benefit of your
        knowlege. We are going to need all the help we can get.

        PS: I still think nuclear is going to be just another bonfire of oil
        energy. Exit stage left.


        Cheers... Chris Shaw
      • Brent Eubanks
        David, More references, if you could? I d be fascinated to know more about a reactor that runs on unenriched uranium and consumes its own waste. Brent
        Message 3 of 7 , Jun 1, 2006
          David,

          More references, if you could? I'd be fascinated to know more about
          a reactor that runs on unenriched uranium and consumes its own waste.

          Brent

          On May 31, 2006, at 2:50 PM, David M. Delaney wrote:

          > This material assumes falsely that power reactors cannot be fuelled
          > with unenriched uranium. There is already one mature and widely
          > deployed nuclear reactor technology, CANDU, that operates entirely on
          > unenriched uranium. All Canadian power reactors are CANDU.
          >
          > It also ignores the spectacular efficiency improvement possible with
          > fast burner technology like the unfortunately cancelled Integral Fast
          > Reactor project, now resurrected as the Advanced Fast Reactor at
          > Argonne Labs. This technology would make it possible to consume all
          > uranium and all its transuranic fission products, hugely reducing
          > waste, but also all thorium, three times more abundant than uranium,
          > which is already abundant.
          >
          > The referenced articles are pathologically partisan, biased, and ill
          > informed.
          >
          > David Delaney, Ottawa
          >
          > --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell Clarke"
          > <darrclarke@...> wrote:
          >>
          >>
          >> http://www.energybulletin.net/16579.html
          >> Published on 29 May 2006 by Online Opinion. Archived on 31 May 2006.
          >>
          >> The economics of oofle dust
          >> by Chris Shaw, The Feral Metallurgist
          >>
          >>
          >> AUSTRALIA - The prime minister has asked for a robust debate on
          >> uranium
          >> mining. So be it. In the matter of Australia's role in the global
          > nuclear
          >> industry, there is no substitute for general knowledge. Acceding
          >> to the
          >> desires of political or economic ideologues is not an option.
          >>
          >> Most of us see the gathering of energy as being analogous to
          >> taking the
          >> trusty chainsaw out into the forest. We pay brave souls to cut coal
          > from the
          >> ground, or pump oil from a windswept platform far out to sea. Others
          > process
          >> and refine coal, oil and gas to produce the distributable energy and
          > goods
          >> of our everyday lives. No mystery there.
          >> Nuclear energy requires us to think again. This is not "business as
          > usual".
          >> There is no trusty woodsman gathering fuel for the nuclear hearth in
          > the way
          >> that we usually think of it.
          >>
          >>
          >> Uranium begins its journey
          >>
          >> From the orebody to the reactor, uranium begins its journey
          > conventionally
          >> enough. Like other metallic mining operations, the wanted mineral is
          >> carefully separated from the natural matrix. When the separation has
          > been
          >> achieved to the level of purity that is practicable in an outback
          > processing
          >> plant, the uranium oxide "yellowcake" is now concentrated enough
          >> to be
          >> conveniently transported away. Radiation levels of yellowcake are
          > tolerable
          >> with respect to its relatively small quantity. Steel containers
          >> provide
          >> adequate short-term shielding.
          >>
          >> The opposite might be true of the plant tailings, which although
          > weaker in
          >> radioactive mineral, are now cast upon the surface of the land in
          > very large
          >> amounts. Here I yield to the wisdom of the environmental scientist
          > to inform
          >> us what is or is not tolerable.
          >>
          >>
          >> Only a pinch of oofle dust remains
          >>
          >> Only a small portion of natural uranium has the ability to
          >> detonate the
          >> process that generates uranium heat energy. Seven atoms in every
          > thousand
          >> are subtly different to their brothers. In my naive way, I will
          >> tell you
          >> that those seven atoms have the potential to release some of the
          > energy that
          >> went into the creation of the heavier elements, in old stars, so
          > long ago.
          >>
          >> In that distant past, unstable transitory atoms were far more
          > plentiful. By
          >> gathering remnant transitory atoms together in greater abundance,
          >> we can
          >> re-create those energetic times once again, if only for a brief
          > while, in
          >> the heart of a reactor.
          >>
          >>
          >> Hunt the oofle dust
          >>
          >> There is no chemical difference between the scarce uranium atoms
          > (U235) and
          >> the plentiful (U238), so common chemical processes will not serve to
          >> separate them. They are isotopes.
          >>
          >> U235 atoms are one per cent lighter than U238. This subtle
          > difference is how
          >> we differentiate between the two. Imagine searching for a
          >> tablespoon of
          >> flour in a crate of talcum powder, grain by grain - then multiply the
          >> problem a million fold, because we are forced to deal with nature's
          > smallest
          >> building blocks.
          >>
          >> In order to separate all the atoms first, we must turn the uranium
          > into a
          >> vapour. The heat required to do this is so great that it would rob a
          > very
          >> significant amount of our nuclear energy output - and remember, we
          > are in
          >> the business of making an energy profit.
          >>
          >>
          >> Externalising the problems
          >>
          >> Like any good corporate pirate, we must maximise profit and
          > externalise the
          >> costs. This is why nuclear power generates really bad karma. This
          >> is the
          >> principle that is hushed up by nuclear profiteers. This is the rub.
          > This is
          >> the bit that we all have to learn and understand. Read on ...
          >>
          >>
          >> Liberating the oofle dust
          >>
          >> In order to vaporise uranium "cheaply" at a low temperature, it is
          >> first
          >> necessary to combine it with fluorine. The combination of 6 fluorine
          > atoms
          >> with each single uranium atom, gives the only compound (UF6) that
          >> will
          >> become a gas when moderately heated.
          >>
          >> Yellowcake is refined, and then dissolved in concentrated
          > hydrofluoric acid
          >> to give an intermediate compound with 4 fluorine atoms (UF4). Further
          >> treatment with fluorine gas attaches two more atoms to give uranium
          >> hexafluoride (UF6).
          >>
          >> Uranium hexafluoride is not found in nature because it is
          >> unstable. By
          >> making the uranium so easy to manipulate, we have also made it so
          > easy to
          >> blend into the surrounding environment; into water, air, soil and our
          >> bodies. In other words, the genie is out of the bottle. UF6 must be
          > treated
          >> with kid gloves.
          >>
          >>
          >> Concentrating the oofle dust
          >>
          >> So subtle is the weight difference between U235 and U238, that
          > separation
          >> and concentration becomes a very onerous task. Batteries of high-
          >> speed
          >> precision centrifuges are coupled together in their thousands in
          > order to
          >> achieve commercial throughput. All must be gas tight and maintained
          > at the
          >> correct temperature, so that UF6 does not condense back into fluid.
          > All must
          >> be made from materials that will not react or combine with UF6. A
          > centrifuge
          >> plant is a very considerable capital cost. The total energy
          > investment is
          >> significant.
          >>
          >>
          >> Mass-balancing oofle dust
          >>
          >> To stoke a nuclear fire, we require a concentration of 35 (U235)
          > atoms in
          >> every thousand. This means that for every tonne of nuclear fuel
          > produced,
          >> there MUST be 9 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride (dUF6) to be
          >> disposed of. There is no way out of this simple mass-balance: dUF6
          >> still
          >> retains 3 atoms of U235 per thousand.
          >>
          >>
          >> Commercial-in-confidence, shhhhh!
          >>
          >> The US alone has in excess of 720,000 tonnes of depleted uranium
          >> hexafluoride in storage in enormous "parking lots". It is
          >> contained in
          >> large, thick-walled special steel containers, which must be
          > re-painted and
          >> tested for leaks continuously. The containers hold almost all of the
          > dUF6
          >> that was created since 1946.
          >>
          >> Laughingly, the US DoE describes this intractable mess as "a future
          >> resource", but there is no way out. The energy and capital cost of
          > changing
          >> this poison into something benign makes the nuclear option a
          >> loser. Ask
          >> yourself, if there was a buck to be made, would that "resource"
          >> still be
          >> there after six decades?
          >>
          >>
          >> The true cost of value-adding
          >>
          >> For every tonne of reactor-grade UF6 produced, Australia must keep 9
          > tonnes
          >> of dUF6 as a gift to future generations. Yet a steel cylinder does
          >> not a
          >> time-machine make.
          >>
          >> Can the economists of McBank, McMine or McTreasury even hope to
          > guess at a
          >> price for our uranium exports, which takes this into account? Will
          > they even
          >> bother to try?
          >>
          >> Far better to "externalise" the problem. That's how we have always
          >> done
          >> business, isn't it?
          >>
          >>
          >> Try this thought-experiment
          >>
          >> You are a match-tester. Your job is to strike every match on the
          > production
          >> line in order to see which ones don't work.
          >>
          >> The fact that your boss has shares in a cigarette lighter factory
          > makes you
          >> feel a little uneasy. But he pays a handsome salary, so you put your
          >> thoughts behind you, buy a good suit and convince yourself and
          >> your wife
          >> that your efforts are somehow a noble contribution to the progress of
          >> mankind.
          >>
          >> By the current rules of the corporate-nuclear game, you would be
          >> right.
          >>
          >>
          >> The bottom line
          >>
          >> The getting of wisdom is not too hard. Although we have only touched
          > upon
          >> the initial stages of the nuclear chain, many of the in-principle
          > designs
          >> and blueprints for nuclear power are freely available on the Web.
          >> Rube
          >> Goldberg is particularly recommended. Google him.
          >>
          >> Over to you.
          >>
          >> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          >>
          >> This looks like another time to mention David Fleming's important
          > document
          >> WHY NUCLEAR POWER CANNOT BE A MAJOR ENERGY SOURCE.
          >> http://www.feasta.org/documents/energy/nuclear_power.htm
          >>
          >> Check out the archives for some other great and idiosyncratically
          >> styled
          >> articles by Chris Shaw, the Feral Metallurgist.
          >>
          >> Chris's Online Opinion bio states:
          >>
          >> Chris Shaw was a mining metallurgist, until retreating to care for
          >> his
          >> beloved partner. Mining metallurgists are trained to appreciate the
          > laws of
          >> natural abundance. Mining is where the wishful thinking of
          > economists meets
          >> the reality of nature. Chris sometimes operates under the pseudonym
          > "Feral
          >> Metallurgist", so that he can enjoy an air of mystique which he
          >> doesn't
          >> actually deserve.
          >>
          >> -AF
          >>
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > Your message didn't show up on the list? Complaints or compliments?
          > Drop me (Tom Robertson) a note at t1r@...
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          >
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        • David M. Delaney
          ... For the reactor that runs on unenriched uranium, google CANDU for many references. For the reactor that consumes its own waste, google Integral Fast
          Message 4 of 7 , Jun 1, 2006
            --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, Brent Eubanks
            <greenengineer@...> wrote:
            >
            > David,
            >
            > More references, if you could? I'd be fascinated to know more about
            > a reactor that runs on unenriched uranium and consumes its own waste.
            >
            > Brent

            For the reactor that runs on unenriched uranium, google CANDU for many
            references.

            For the reactor that consumes its own waste, google Integral Fast
            Reactor, or Advanced Fast Reactor, again for many references. These
            reactors are sometimes called "fast burners" to distinguish their fuel
            cycle, rather than the essential way they work, from fast breeders.
            They cannot be started with unenriched uranium only, but once started,
            say with enriched uranium, or with partly consumed fuel from another
            fast burner, or with decommissioned bomb material, or with waste from
            a reactor with a once-through fuel cycle (CANDU, say), can then be fed
            indefinitely with "fertile" but non-fissionable materials like U238 or
            thorium. Fast burners could consume all of the long life waste ever
            created by once-through reactors, reducing its life to hundreds of
            years from tens of thousands of years, and getting out the 98% of its
            original energy content unused by the once-through cycle.

            David Delaney, Ottawa
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