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Posts Tagged ‘MIT’

NUCLEAR GOES MAINSTREAM: DAN RATHER CLIMBS ON BOARD

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

March 3, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Dan Rather may no longer look the nation in the eye every night at 6 o’clock, but he still has enormous prestige and he is lending that prestige to nuclear power.
 
“Everyone I talked to agreed that nuclear power is the solution,” said Rather after doing a special feature on his weekly HDNet show, “Dan Rather Reports.”  In a lengthy excerpt posted on Huffington Post, Rather does level-headed interviews with Dr. David Moncton of MIT, Dr. Eric Loewen of GE Hitachi and “Grizz” and Deborah Deal, the brother-and-sister team who head up Hyperion, one of the leading mini-reactor companies.
 
 Instead of the traditional “What-happens-if-the-reactor-blows-up?” type of questions, Rather allows Moncton to establish that Three Mile Island actually validated the integrity of safety systems and that Chernobyl was an anomaly of Soviet science. When it comes to “What-do-you-do-with-the-waste?” he has Loewen explain the Integral Fast Breeder – an interview that verified the conclusions of author Tom Blees in Prescription for the Planet.
 
Dr. Ernest Moritz of MIT weighs in against small modular reactors and other new technology, saying that the well worn grooves of Nuclear Regulatory Commission proceedings more or less doom us to technologies laid out twenty years ago. "I feel like I’m a technology Luddite or something in saying this," Moniz tells Rather. "For the next ten, twenty years, if we’re going to build nuclear power, it’s going to be fundamentally based around what you see and the so-called generation III+ reactors."
 
On the whole, though, the message is upbeat. “Whether the government is on the right path is a point of contention,” Rather concludes, “but on one point, everyone I interviewed agrees. Nuclear power is the solution, they say, and it’s time to get going.”

Read more about it at the Huffington Post

 

MIT PURSUES THE WILL-O-THE-WISP OF SOLAR ENERGY

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Solar energy falls upon the earth at an average intensity of about 400 watts per square meter. That’s enough to illuminate four 100-watt light bulbs on the space of a card table.
 
That’s a fair amount of energy but not a tremendous amount. The best conversion rate achievable by converting sunlight directly into electricity through photovoltaic panels or aligning huge mirrors to boil a fluid is about 25 percent. This means if we covered every square inch of rooftop in the country we could probably get enough electricity to provide our indoor lighting plus run a few basic appliances, which constitute about 15 percent of our electrical usage. Any improvements on that can only be marginal. If we get 10 percent better conversion, that means we could provide 16.5 percent of our electricity instead of 15 percent. When it comes to running the rest of our industrial society, however, we need more robust sources such as fossil fuels or nuclear.
 
Solar is a fashionable dream, however, and so the grant money keeps flowing and the researchers keep researching. The latest news – which is sure to make headlines – comes out of MIT, where researchers have rediscovered a technology for storing solar energy in chemical form rather than converting it to heat or electricity. “According to Jeffrey Grossman, Associate Professor of Power Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the molecule – fulvalene diruthenium – absorbs solar energy, it goes into a higher-energy state where it can remain stable indefinitely,” says this report on Energy Matters. “Then, triggered by a small addition of heat or a catalyst, it snaps back to its original shape, releasing heat in the process.”  The result would be that solar electricity would not disappear the moment the sun goes behind a cloud but could be stored in a molecule – like coal – and released at will.
 
Big news?  Think this will rev up the clamor for more solar subsidies?  Well, don’t get too excited. “Unfortunately, the essential element needed to allow the thermo-chemical to both absorb sunlight and release it – ruthenium – [is] too rare to ever be cost effective. But the MIT research team say they have uncovered exactly how the essential molecule responsible for absorbing, storing, and releasing solar energy works. And this understanding, they said, should make it possible to find similar chemicals based on more abundant, less expensive materials than ruthenium.”
 
True enough. But remember, if we ever discover that material, it will still take 25 square miles of collectors to equal the output of one nuclear reactor.

Read more at Energy Matters

URANIUM PRICES MAY BE HEADED UP AGAIN AS CHINA STARTS BUYING

Monday, July 12th, 2010

After three years in the doldrums, uranium prices may be about to revive as China begins stockpiling supplies for the 60 new reactors it is planning to build over the next decade.
 
China bought 5000 metric tons of uranium this year – almost twice as much as it consumes – and is likely to increase its demand even more this year, according to an analysis by MIT. After trading in the low $30 range for almost three years, spot prices have rebounded to $41. Some analysts are predicting they could climb as high as $55 before the end of this year.
 
That’s good news for both Cameco and Areva, the Western world’s two largest suppliers. Cameco, the Canadian mining company, has seen stock prices fall 60 percent in the past three years, largely due to uranium prices. Areva’s stock has declined 53 percent over the same period, but not all because of commodity operations. The French giant has had trouble keeping its production schedule at the Olkiluoto project in Finland and has experienced growing competition from Korea and other competitors in selling reactors around the world.
 
Uranium prices are expected to bounce back even more after 2014 when the Russian-American deal for old Soviet weapons’ stocks terminates. The U.S. now gets half its uranium supplies from this swords-to-ploughshares effort.
 
But the real source of growth will be new reactor construction. In the 1980s, when U.S. expansion was at its peak, a new reactor was being started every 17 days. According to World Nuclear News, by 2015 a new reactor will be started somewhere in the world every five days with China and India leading the pack.
 
Uranium prices peaked at $135 a pound in 2006 as the result of a speculative boom based on hopes for the Nuclear Revival. The run-up brought many old mines back into operation, however, and burst the speculative bubble. Price increase over the next year, however, would appear to be based on real demand.

Read more at Business Week