more or less inevitable, I suspect, that even those who have discerned
the wrongfulness of fission power become, in the course of looking
into it, fascinated by clever ideas that have emerged in that warped
line of invention. I have found no difficulty in conceding that
some very clever ideas have been generated by those understandably but
mistakenly working on fission power reactors. Their lacks are
not in cleverness but elsewhere.
my favourites has been the molten-salt reactor. The vessel is
rather like an upside-down pear. The coolant, which is also the
fuel, is a molten salt of a fissile nuclide. As it flows upward
thru the vessel, it forms briefly a critical mass when it arrives at a
critical cross-sectional area. The heat produced in that zone is
carried by the flowing fuel/coolant upwards and out of the vessel to a
steam generator, and the still-molten salt is pumped around to the
bottom of the inverted pear again ...
a recent array of fission power reactor concepts. You can safely
assume that each entails hidden problems, and I doubt the IEEE will do
much to discover them. More worrying is the fear that the Union
of Concerned Scientists will not have the expertise to appraise these
sometimes difficult to foresee defects of a particular reactor
design. I stumbled upon an example when browsing in the library
of the NZ Institute for Nuclear Science (in the lateish 1970s).
One of their nuclear enthusiasts had written a report on an official
overseas tour, and this was on the open shelves. It reported
that the British prototype for a 'steam-generating heavy water
moderated reactor' (SGHWR - at Winfrith Heath) had shown a
positive void coefficient of fission power: if a void develops in the
core, the fission power increases (as contrasted with one of the
inherent virtues of LWRs, in which the coolant is also the
moderator). This is a menacing characteristic, because such a
reactor could well melt itself by a positive-feedback runaway even if
there has been no large loss of coolant. This reactor type
had looked relatively attractive to the pro-nuclear clique in NZ, but
this report by one of their own appeared to put them off it.
present sales efforts of the nuclear trade is largely reliant on the
PR image 'new, much safer reactor concepts'. On past
performance, these will not be properly appraised by suitably
sceptical experts. Never forget that the containment of the GE
BWR was 'designed' in their sales dept ...