Wednesday, May 21, 2014
While the government has dropped its fee to power plants for disposal of spent fuel and the fuel continues to pile up, same new nuclear startups are working to generate more power from the spent fuel stockpiles. The technique is to dissolve the fuel into a molten salt and completely burn the fissile material in it (something that can't be done with fuel in a solid form). Molten salt reactors were successful experimentally back in the 50's but have yet to be built commercially.
Kudos to the winners of the annual Hydrogen Student Design Contest.
The WSU team's fueling station design was safe and reliable while also lowering building costs of current stations by 75 percent.
Conducting an economic analysis, the students determined that filling a hydrogen fuel tank to go 300 miles would cost about $48, which is comparable to regular gasoline. They developed a business plan in which a portable hydrogen fuel station could work in conjunction with existing gas stations in a way that would benefit both entities.
"The design the students developed looks to be completely implementable right now,'' said Jake Leachman, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and an advisor on the project. "We want to build one, and we should. The business model/idea is innovative and could lead to a startup company.''I'm happy to say that my son, Austin Miller, was on that team handling the economics and public policy issues. Way to go!
An alternative nuclear fusion process is proposed by LPP Fusion that doesn't need the astronomic investments required by such this as the ITER. Developers think they can have a 5 MW reactor by the end of the decade for a mere half million dollars. It would produce electrical power for about 0.06 cents per kWh. Rather than fight plasma instability, it capitalizes on it. By fusing carbon and boron, ionized helium ions are produced without any radiated neutrons. The other isotopic products have a half-life of only 20 minutes which means the apparatus can be brought back to background levels in about 9 hours. Since the output is charged particles, electricity can directly generated. It could be a game-changer.
From Penn State we have this: a method of producing porous silicon with much more surface area than the standard method. It can be used to catalyze the production of hydrogen from water with only sunlight as the energy input. That would be interesting to see at an industrial scale.