Geiger Readings for Sep 15, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 105 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 93 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 108 nanosieverts per hour

Peach from Central Market = 95 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 101 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 95 nanosieverts per hour

Halibut - Caught in USA = 115 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Fusion 49 - Researchers in the U.S. and South Korea Discover Best Pattern Of Magnetic Fields To Stabilize Plasmas In Tokamaks

KSTAR_tokamak 2.jpg

Korean Superconducting Tokamak:

       One of the biggest problems confronting nuclear fusion research is how to maintain a stable plasma while the fusion reaction is taking place. The tokomak fusion reactor design features a donut shaped containment vessel that uses magnetic fields to corral the hot dense plasma. A great deal of research is being carried out on how best to arrange the magnetic fields to prevent instabilities.
       If instabilities develop in the plasma, then the plasma may touch to sides of the containment vessel causing damage to the walls of the vessel. This is caused by “edge localized modes” (ELMs) which are flares-like bursts of plasma. 
        In order to prevent ELMs, scientists have developed technology to produce resonant magnetic perturbations (RMPs). RMPs are small magnetic ripples that are introduced into the donut-shaped ring of plasma in the tokamak. These ripples distort the smooth donut of plasma and release excess pressure. This can reduce or eliminate the ELMs. The most difficult part of this solution is causing just the right amount of distortion to remove ELMs while not causing other types instabilities. If the RMPs release too much energy, it can cause a major disruption in the plasma and stop the fusion reaction.
       There are virtually infinite ways in which the plasma in a tokamak may be perturbed by applied magnetic fields. The challenge has been to find exactly the correct perturbations needed to eliminate ELMs without causing other problems. This problem has now been solved.
      Jong-Kyu Park is a physicist who works at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Laboratory. He is collaborating with teams from the U.S and the National Fusion Research Institute of South Korea. This group has successfully predicted all of the best 3-D magnetic distortion patterns for controlling ELMs which do not cause other problems. The group used the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) facility to validate their predictions. The KSTAR is one of the most advanced superconducting tokamaks in the world.
        The KSTAR was used for validation because it has advanced magnetic systems for precisely controlling distortions in the plasma. The best distortion patterns account for less than one percent of the possible patterns. Identifying the best patterns would have been impossible without the new model developed by Park and his associates.
        Park published a paper in Nature Physics along with fourteen other coauthors. He said, “the result was a precedent-setting achievement. We show for the first time the full 3-D field operating window in a tokamak to suppress ELMs without stirring up core instabilities or excessively degrading confinement. For a long time we thought it would be too computationally difficult to identify all beneficial symmetry-breaking fields, but our work now demonstrates a simple procedure to identify the set of all such configurations.”
       Park and his associates were able to significantly reduce the complexity of calculations for their breakthrough when they realized that the number of types of plasma perturbations were far fewer than the number perturbations. They worked back from the type of perturbations that they wanted to the exact 3-D field patterns that would produce them for the elimination of ELMs.
       The validation of the proper patterns which eliminate ELMs will be useful in the design of the ITER, the international tokamak project being constructed in France. The control of ELMs will be critical for the completion of ITER as it attempts to produce ten times as much energy as is required to heat its plasma. The authors of the paper in Nature Physics said, “the method and principle adopted in this study can substantially improve the efficiency and fidelity of the complicated 3-D optimizing process in tokamaks.”


Geiger Readings for Sep 14, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 66 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 94 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 97 nanosieverts per hour

Currents from Central Market = 76 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 80 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 75 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Weapons 356 - Congress Considering Funding For Maintenance And Modernization Of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

        Congress is considering a nuclear weapons budget that contains four hundred and fifty-eight million dollars more in 2019 than was allocated in 2018. The compromise funding bill that was released from a conference committee on Monday. The Department of Energy will receive forty-four billion six hundred million dollars according to the plan. Eleven Billion one hundred million dollars of the DoE allocation will go to the National Nuclear Security Administration which is a semiautonomous office in DoE with oversight over the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads.
       One billion nine hundred and twenty million dollars will be dedicated to funding life-extension programs for nuclear weapons. This supports the NNSA mission to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear weapons and their supporting infrastructure as called for in the latest Nuclear Posture Review from the Trump Administration. There are some remaining questions about whether and how the NNSA five major modernization programs will be funded in the future.
       The appropriation bill is considered by analysts to be a “win” for President Trump who wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He asked for a seventeen and a half percent increase in the NNSA above their funding for 2018.
       The bill includes sixty-five million dollars for the low-yield, submarine launched ballistic missile which has been controversial. This program involves the modification of the W76-1 warhead currently used on the U.S. Navy’s Trident II D5 ballistic missile into what will be referred to as the W76-2 warhead.
        The compromise bill retained the wording of the House version which required the NNSA to produce a report with details of the plan, rationale, costs and implications attached to the production of a low-yield version of the W76. The report will need to include estimation of the long-term maintenance costs of the program as well as possible impacts or program delays. Congress has not yet announced a compromise on the spending package that includes the Department of Defense’s request for twenty-two million six hundred thousand dollars in 2019 to complement the development work of the NNSA on the W76-2.
      The bill also requested reports on the cost of the IW-1 Life Extension Program, which is aimed at creating an warhead that is interoperable for different systems. Those costs will be compared to the cost of refurbishing the existing W78 warheads. There will also be other reports of costs associated with W78 program, A rough estimate must be sent to Congress within sixty days after the bill is signed into law with a full cost report due one hundred and eighty days after the bill is signed.
       The Nuclear Posture Review was released this February. It calls for the development of two new nuclear weapons and heavy investment in the infrastructure necessary to support the nuclear arsenal. A report by the Government Accountability Office last year warned that there were five major modernization program that will be underfunded in the plans for future years.
       If the Democrats take back control of the House in the coming mid-term elections, it could have a major impact on nuclear weapons funding. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state said last week that nuclear weapons funding is the number one difference between the two political parties. He said, “I think that the Republican party and the Nuclear Posture Review contemplates a lot more nuclear weapons than I, and I think most Democrats, think we need. We also think that the idea of low-yield nuclear weapons are extremely problematic going forward and that when we look at the larger budget picture, that’s not the best place to spend the money.”
      The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the cost of U.S. nuclear forces over the next thirty years will be about one trillion two hundred billion dollars. Eight hundred billion dollars will be spent to operate and perform incremental upgrades. About four hundred billion dollars will be spent to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Geiger Readings for Sep 13, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 88 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 87 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 94 nanosieverts per hour

Mango from Central Market = 86 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 93 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 79 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 612 - Brunswick Nuclear Generating Station In North Carolina Is In The Path Of Hurricane Florence


Brunswick Nuclear Generating Station:

       The Fukushima nuclear disaster which saw three reactors melt down was caused by a tidal wave that flooded the power plant and the emergency cooling generators. The wave was caused by an undersea earthquake. TEPCO, the owner of the Fukushima plant, knew that their plant might not be able to withstand a major tidal wave but did nothing about it before disaster struck.
       Part of the problem at Fukushima was the design of the GE Mark II nuclear reactors there and the buildings that contained them. It turns out that there are twenty commercial power reactors in the U.S. that are based on the Mark II design.
       Hurricane Florence is headed for the North Carolina coast and will arrive tomorrow. It will have winds of up to one hundred and thirty miles per hour and up to forty inches of rain in some areas. The storm track now looks like Florence will swerve into South Carolina and Georgia after it makes landfall. Up to six nuclear power plants in North Carolina are may hit by the storm. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, all U.S. nuclear power plants were upgraded to better withstand storms and flooding.
       The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending additional inspectors to check nuclear power plants in the path of the storm in North Carolina and South Carolina. They intend to provide around the clock support to the staffs at the nuclear power plants.
       Duke Energy owns and operates the Brunswick Nuclear Generating Station in Brunswick County, North Carolina.  It is located near the town of Southport which is on the Atlantic Ocean about thirty miles south of Wilmington. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a thorough safety inspection discovered that there were many possible areas where there could be leakage and water penetration of the plant that need to be repaired. There were missing seals, missing or corroded bolts, broken links of pressure plates, corrosion, open terminal boxes, gaps in weather stripping on doors and inadequate repairs of previous leakage.
       The Brunswick power plant is twenty feet above sea level and can withstand a storm surge of about twenty-two feet. The plant’s emergency generators would be safe from such a surge. The plant is four miles from the ocean and Duke says that they can handle a Category 5 hurricane. Florence is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 storm with winds of about one hundred and thirty miles per hour. The power plant structures that house the reactors should be able to hold up against winds of that speed. However, an on-site inspector with the NRC said that flooding is a greater threat to the site with Florence predicted to drop up to 20 inches of rain in the area of the plant and generate a fifteen-foot storm surge.
        The current track predicted for Florence is aimed straight at the Brunswick plant. Let us hope that the repairs and preparations will protect the plant and other nuclear plants in South Carolina. Nuclear plants have weathered other severe storms on the East Coast with minor damage and no major nuclear releases.

Geiger Readings for Sep 12, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 63 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 111 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 115 nanosieverts per hour

Plum from Central Market = 108 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 73 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 79 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 611 - Experts Warn Of Dangers Of High Temperature Gas Cooled Pebble Bed Reactor

       Pebble-bed reactors utilize “pebbles” made of uranium covered with a layer of ceramic and graphite for fuel. The Chinese are preparing to go operational with one of the high temperature gas cooled pebble-bed reactors (HTGR) they call HTR-PM. While the Chinese claim that such reactors are very safe, experts in the U.S. and Germany associated with MIT warn that there are still possibilities for serious accidents. Their report was published in the journal Joule.
      Rainer Moormann, one of the authors of the MIT report, said, “There is no reason for any kind of panic, but nuclear technology has risk in any case.  A realistic understanding of those risks is essential, especially for operators, and so we urge caution and a spirit of scientific inquiry in the operation of HTR-PM.”
       HTGRs can generate electricity more efficiently than older conventional reactors. They also do not have some of the safety problems of conventional commercial reactors. The graphite and ceramic covered pebbles of uranium fuel can withstand the high temperatures and passive cooling systems in the cores of the HTGRs which prevents the meltdowns that are possible in conventional commercial reactors.
       Some boosters of pebble-bed reactors claim that they are so safe and self-regulating that operators could just turn them on and walk away. As a result of this claim, the HTR-PM has been constructed without the safeguards that conventional commercial reactors incorporate. The HTR-PM does not have a high-pressure, leak-tight containment structure to trap escaping radioactive materials in case of an accidental leak of the core. It also does not have a backup active cooling system.
       Moormann said, “No reactor is immune to accidents. The absence of core meltdown accidents does not mean that a dangerous event is not possible.” The report goes on to point out that with any new technology there is always a danger of user error. Experimental HTGRs have formed localized hot spots in the core and generated unexpectedly high levels of radioactive dust. The pebble-bed design also produces more nuclear waste than conventional commercial reactors which is an important consideration.
       Moormann also said, "HTGR designs with what's known as a prismatic core seem to be less problematic than the pebble-bed one, so development work should concentrate on that.”
       The MIT report suggests several steps that can be taken as a precaution in the construction and operation of HTGR. There should be detailed continuous monitoring. Containment and cooling systems should be installed. There should be an extended startup phase during which the reactor can be monitored as it reaches operation temperatures. More and better storage options for the nuclear waste produced by the HTGR should be developed.
       Moormann said, “There was already some controversy about pebble-bed HTGRs, but my impression was that many problems of them were not sufficiently published and thus not known to some of my colleagues. I hope that the pros and cons will be broadly discussed.”

Geiger Readings for Sep 11, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 123 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 115 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 115 nanosieverts per hour

White potato from Central Market = 74 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 97 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 79 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 610 - Belgium Is Building A New Research Reactor

       Belgium’s Council of Ministers has just approved six hundred and forty-six million dollars to construct the Myrrha accelerator-driven research reactor at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center’s (SCK-CEN) site in Mol. This funding will cover the period from 2019-2038. The funds will be used for construction of the first important part of Myrrha which is referred to as the Minerva installation. The funds will also be used for the research and development to support the Minerva installation and operating costs for Minerva following the completion of construction in 2026.
      The Belgian government also approved the establishment of an international non-profit-making body known as AISBL/IVZW Myrrha. The body has a special legal status that is adopted by big projects that are financed by multiple foreign states. A spokesman for SCK-CEN said, “This decision will strengthen promotion and reception of foreign partners which are interested in the Myrrha project and its applications.”
       Myrrha or the Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications will be a sub-critical assembly. Accelerated protons will trigger the release of neutrons in a low-enriched uranium core. This will result in brief periods of criticality in the core. The fifty-seven-megawatt thermal accelerator-driven system will deliver a six hundred million electron volt beam to a liquid lead-bismuth spallation target. This target is coupled to a subcritical fast reactor cooled with liquid lead-bismuth.
       Myrrha is replacing the aging Belgium BR2 research reactor. It will be used for a variety of research functions such as demonstrating the practicality of the idea of transmuting the radionuclides with long half-lives in nuclear waste. Other research areas include nuclear physics, atomic physics, fundamental nuclear interactions, solid-state physics and nuclear medicine. It will also be used to produce radioisotopes for medical diagnostics and treatment.
       The Director General of SCK-CEN said, “Thanks to its unique and innovative nature, the research infrastructure will attract researchers from all over the world to Belgium and will train a new generation of experts to provide technological solutions to these major challenges.”
        The project is part of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. It is also one of three new research reactors that are an important part of the European Research Area of Experimental Reactors. The other two new research reactors are the Jules Horowitz reactor at Cadarache in France and the Palla reactor at Petten in the Netherlands.
        The construction of Myrrha was approved by the Belgian government in 2010. Belgium has committed to suppling forty percent of the one thousand one hundred and ten dollars projected cost for the whole project. Other participants will include the European Union and the European Investment Bank. A total of seventy percent of the cost will come from members of the European Union.
        The director of the Myrrha program said, "Thanks to our government's support, Myrrha has made great progress. I would like to thank everyone who assisted in obtaining this decision and who supported this project from the very beginning, in Belgium and abroad. The political, industrial and local authorities' support also contributed to this success and will remain crucial to complete the project.”