Blog & News
This section contains information relating to all the fun, weird and mind boggling new stuff happening in the science world. Over here we shall try to cover the news from all the fields from science from biology to physics, from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and from the smallest elementary particle to the vast cosmos.
How far are we from the future?
By - Richa Singh
GEOPOLITICS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY
Over the last few
years, there has been a monumental shift in
the global nuclear energy sector, with the
traditional nuclear-supplying bigwigs like the
US, Canada and some Western European
nations replaced by countries like Russia and
China as lead suppliers of nuclear-related
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Why a physicist wants to build a particle collider on the moon?
As we probe deeper into the innermost workings of the universe, our particle physics experiments have become ever more complex. In order to reveal the secrets of the tiniest subatomic particles, physicists must make colliders and detectors as cold as possible, remove as much air as possible, and keep them as still as possible to get reliable results.
Using 3D Fabrication, Researchers Develop Novel Nuclear Materials
In 2011 the nuclear energy industry faced one of its greatest challenges. Koroush Shirvan, assistant professor in the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering rose to the challenge. Shirvan has seized on an innovative nuclear fuel concept that addresses key safety issues while offering potential improvements in reactor performance.
More Evidence for A ‘Fifth Force’ Found in Radioactive Decay Measurements
Anomalies in the radioactive decay of beryllium-8 and helium-4 point to the existence of a new force of nature. That is the conclusion of a group of theorists in the US, who have scrutinized data from experiments carried out by nuclear physicists in Hungary over the past five years. Results from the two different isotopes agree on both the mass and interaction strength of the hypothetical boson that would carry the long-sought fifth force, the team found.
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US NRC proposed ruling on SMRs supported by DOE
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on 5 June published in the Federal Register a proposed ruling on Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Other New Technologies (ONTs). The document has a comment period that ends in 48 days. The NRC is proposing to amend its regulations to include new alternative emergency preparedness requirements for SMRs and other new technologies, such as non-light-water reactors and some non-power production or utilisation facilities.
The new emergency preparedness requirements would acknowledge technological advancements and other differences from large LWRs that are inherent in SMRs and ONTs. NRC said it plans to hold a public meeting to promote a full understanding of the proposed rule and guidance and to facilitate public comment.
Planet needs additional 3,000GW of renewables by 2030 to meet Paris Agreement goal.
According to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and BloombergNEF (BNEF), addition of around 3,000GW of renewable energy is required for the planet by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The report is based on the analysis of investment trends and clean energy commitments made by countries and corporations for the next decade. The analysis suggests the planned investments fall far below the $2.7 trillion committed to renewables during the last decade.
Trump Orders Coast Guard to Look into Building Nuclear-Powered Icebreakers Like Russia
The memo also calls for examining possible defensive armament options to protect these ships against near-peer threats. US President Donald Trump issued a memorandum on Arctic and Antarctic security today that called on the U.S. Coast Guard to explore the possibility of buying nuclear-powered icebreakers, a type of ship that only Russia operates. The same document orders an assessment of what kind of defensive weapons any future icebreakers might carry, specifically to defend against possible threats from “near-peer competitors,” such as Russia or China. The Coast Guard’s tiny existing icebreaking fleets have been in increasingly desperate need of replacement for years now and the service finally awarded a contract for its first new heavy icebreaker, a conventionally-powered design, in decades just over a year ago.
TEPCO finds no obstacles to removing fuel rods from Fukushima reactor
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. on Wednesday found no obstacles in its planned removal of radioactive fuel rods from the spent fuel pool of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. TEPCO confirmed the findings when it conducted an internal probe into the reactor for the first time since the 2011 disaster. Using a remotely operated underwater robot to photograph the interior of the pool, submerged fuel rods and their storage racks were checked for any damage. A white sediment was discovered on the aluminum alloy racks which is believed to have formed from a reaction between aluminum and elements in sea water that was injected into the pool to cool the fuel during the disaster.
Similar sediment was found in the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors’ pools, from which fuel rods have already been removed, but it did not affect the process, according to TEPCO. Similar to the Nos. 1 and 3 reactors, the No. 2 reactor suffered a core meltdown after it temporarily lost its cooling functions in its spent fuel pool, but the building was spared from a hydrogen explosion. As such, the pool is thought to be free of debris and in a relatively stable condition.
Additionally, high radiation levels on the top floor of the reactor building delayed clean-up process of the pool storing a total of 615 spent and unspent fuel rods. A new facility complete with equipment to carry out the fuel rods and a crane will be built on the south side of the No. 2 nuclear reactor building, with the removal process slated to begin sometime between fiscal 2024 to 2026.
Nuclear Power System Delivered for Mars Rover Launch
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has delivered the nuclear power system for the Perseverance rover for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission which is due to launch next month. The Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) was fuelled, built and tested by DOE’s national laboratories.
Radioisotope power systems (RPS) convert heat generated by the natural decay of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) into electrical power. The MMRTG will provide electricity for the basic operations of the rover and to keep its tools and systems at optimal temperatures. It has an operational lifespan of 14 years.
Perseverance will be the first rover to use plutonium created by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which along with Idaho and Los Alamos national laboratories is working to increase US production of Pu-238 for deep space exploration. ORNL in February automated part of the production process allowing it to produce up to 400 g of Pu-238 per year, moving closer to NASA’s goal of 1.5 kilograms per year by 2025.
Nuclear Fusion Technology Being Developed for Electric Vehicles
Automotive engineers are considering the nuclear option. At least, when it comes to electric vehicles of the future. The biggest roadblock to widespread adoption of EVs, so far, is battery technology. It still takes much longer to charge a battery than fill your gas tank. Even so called “fast charging” batteries still take as long as 45 minutes to fully recharge. That’s without even mentioning the staggering lack of charging infrastructure when compared to gas stations. The long charging times are due to the battery packs getting too hot if charging was done faster.
Now, a group of British engineers are proposing to use nuclear fusion technology to keep batteries cool while they charge. They are focusing on how to get the heat out of the battery packs so that the flow of electricity into them can continue at a faster rate. It could be game changing technology for EVs of the future.
The solution is to drill a precise geometry of holes in metal plates. That will allow heat to keep flowing and be lost evenly through the plate. While current EV batteries are designed with the cooling plates on the outside, the new system of cooling has put the holes on the inside. The change should allow heat to be drawn away from the battery core rather than its outside elements.
Lightbridge patents for All Metal Fuel Assembly
US-based nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation has received a patent from the Eurasian Patent Office for its innovative nuclear fuel assemblies. This is a divisional patent and covers an all-metal fuel assembly design with a mixed grid fuel rod arrangement inside the fuel assembly.
Lightbridge said it is developing its advanced metallic fuel designed to make both existing and new nuclear power plants more efficient, more cost-competitive, and even safer. Seth Grae, Lightbridge President & CEO, said: “We are proud to add this latest patent to our growing portfolio of intellectual property. Eurasia includes countries that are signatories to the Eurasian Patent Convention, such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and the Republic of Moldova. These countries represent an attractive market for our proprietary technology, which is designed to enhance the operating safety and efficiency of existing reactors as well as new reactors.”
At the end of May, Lightbridge received a similar patent from the Australian Patent Office. The application covers an alternative embodiment for an all-metal fuel assembly design incorporating Lightbridge-designed four-lobe helically twisted fuel rods for use in pressurized water reactors.
Grae said: “Australia is one the world’s leading uranium producers and increasingly considering pursuing nuclear power generation, it could become a future market for Lightbridge Fuel.”
IAEA launches spent fuel and radioactive waste database
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in close cooperation with the European Commission and the OECD/NEA, has launched a new database for used fuel and radioactive waste that facilitates information sharing and simplifies national reporting in a single easy-to-use platform.
The Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS) will provide an authoritative and integrated view of national and global spent fuel and radioactive waste inventories as well as relevant laws, regulations, policies, plans and activities.
IAEA is encouraging national authorities to take advantage of this important new tool by nominating representatives responsible for submitting data to SRIS, part of which will be available to the public and other countries using the system. So far, 38 countries have done so.
Radioactive waste is the by-product of millions of medical procedures each year, as well as of industrial and agricultural applications that use radiation, and nuclear reactors that generate around 10% of the world’s electricity. Safely and carefully managing it is key to the sustainable use of nuclear technologies, IAEA said.
Breakthrough at the ITER Fusion Reactor Paves Way for Energy Source That May Alter the Course of Civilization
The ITER project, currently in construction in France, should be operational in almost fifteen years and generate energy from the nuclear fusion reactions, similar to the reactions occurring in Sun and the stars. It will be one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of mankind from technical and scientific point of view. This technology involves creation of an artificial star and the tapping of the tremendous amounts of energy produced.
The team comprising of the 35 countries have recently achieved a major milestone of positioning the reactor’s base (1,250 tonnes) in the building, taking a step closer to the final goal. The huge challenge is with tight technical specifications and tolerances less than a millimetre for some components to be fitted accurately. But the dream now seems to be becoming a reality.
Hydrogen and Nuclear
Hydrogen is as the clean energy replacement option for hydrocarbons. But hydrogen is not readily available as free hydrogen. To get pure hydrogen, we must break the bond it has with other elements e.g. in the case of hydrocarbons, it also releases carbon emissions. Two main techniques used for hydrogen production are electrolysis and Steam Methane Formation, which are energy intensive. One of the potential solutions is to produce hydrogen cleanly from nuclear power as it results in low carbon emissions. Small Modular Nuclear reactors (SMR’s) are especially well-suited for this since they are designed to be mass produced in the first place.
Ref. B. Parkinson et al., Levelized cost of CO2 mitigation from hydrogen production routes. Energy and Environmental Science. 2019,12,19
First 3D printed core
The scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have designed a gas cooled reactor with a 3D printed core. The reactor is supposed to come online in 2023 and when it does, it will be first nuclear reactor in the world with a 3D-printed core. The scientists at ORNL have stated that their goal is to change the mindset and the way nuclear energy is done in today’s times. The 3D printed core is one way by which they are trying to build a nuclear system which would have a higher performance, but relatively quickly
Nuclear now open to private sector in India
Good news for nuclear fans in India, as the finance minister announced the opening of the atomic/nuclear energy sector for private sector participation. As a start, the private sector can participate in consumer applications of nuclear energy including medical isotopes and irradiation technology.
The government believes that this will help in developing affordable cancer treatment as well as a significantly cheaper diagnostic tool. The irradiation technology will be beneficial for food preservation and in aiding and assisting the farmers.
Cannibal ants in Polish Nuclear Bunker
Worker ants begin devouring their dead to stay alive after being cut-off from the rest of the ant colony in a nuclear bunker. Yikes!! So look out for radioactive ants? Food for thought. I mean food for ants!!
Full article at: https://www.livescience.com/nuclear-bunker-cannibal-ants.html
21 New Nuclear Reactors in India
Earlier this year, the Department of Atomic Energy commented that 21 nuclear reactors are under various stages of planning and construction, which will add 15,700 MW to the existing capacity. They hope to complete these reactors and bring them into operation by 2031. For the full article go to the link below
LINK : https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/power/21-new-nuclear-reactors-to-add-15000-mw-capacity-dae-secy/articleshow/71189279.cms?UTM_Source=Google_Newsstand&UTM_Campaign=RSS_Feed&UTM_Medium=Referral
Chernobyl’s Control Room Is Now Open to Tourists
So, for the adventurous and daring travelers among us, the control room of the Chernobyl nuclear facility is now open for tourists. The reactor 4 at Chernobyl had remained closed to the public for many decades after the disaster. The Chernobyl tour companies have now provided a statement and confirmed that the control room is now open to the courageous souls brave enough to venture these areas. Although the visit time is only limited to 5 minutes as the activity is still 40,000 times higher than the normal average.
Mysterious Radiation Cloud Over Europe Traced to Secret Russian Nuclear Accident
In 2017, a vast radiation cloud had spread over Europe. This has been traced back to Russia, although they have refused to comment or take any responsibility of the radiation leak. Only 106Ru was detected in the radiation cloud that was detected in central and eastern Europe, Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and even the Caribbean.