The new Russian bomb

I am sure you’ve heard the news already and seen the video of the explosion a million times. That is unless you are living under a rock. The new bomb is supposed to be completely free of nuclear materials but still delivers the “boom” that would be expected of a nuclear device. Quite interesting and a little scary considering that Putin has been sacking and shuffling his cabinet recently to fit the profile he wants. Is this an attempt by Putin to bring Russia back into a state of global power ? Time will tell.

Anyway, without diverging further, let me give you an excerpt from an article on the new Russian test. From CNN

The Russian military has successfully tested what it described as the world’s most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered bomb, Russia’s state television reported Tuesday.

The bomb’s detonation is shown in this image taken from videotape.

It was the latest show of Russia’s military muscle amid chilly relations with the United States.

Channel One television said the new weapon, nicknamed the “dad of all bombs” is four times more powerful than the U.S. “mother of all bombs.”

“The tests have shown that the new air-delivered ordnance is comparable to a nuclear weapon in its efficiency and capability,” said Col.-Gen. Alexander Rukshin, a deputy chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, said in televised remarks. Video Watch Russian bomb test ร‚ยป

Unlike a nuclear weapon, the bomb doesn’t hurt the environment, he added.

Read more

<sarcasm>YESSS ! It doesn’t hurt the environment ! That should keep the global warming fanatics quiet. You showed them Russia. Way to go.</sarcasm>

Btw, also found a nice video of the test, an official release from the Russian government. I should say, the mushroom clouds get me all tingly every time I see it on video. Let’s hope I’ll never have to see that in person during my life !!

Plutonium ?! What do i do with it

I had to quote this recent article at the Onion which a friend of mine forwarded to me.

The topic : “Terrorist Has No Idea What To Do With All This Plutonium”.

Yaquub Akhtar, the leader of an eight-man cell linked to a terrorist organization known as the Army Of Martyrs, admitted Tuesday that he “doesn’t have the slightest clue” what to do with the quarter-kilogram of plutonium he recently acquired.

“We had just given thanks to Allah for this glorious means to destroy the Great Satan once and for all, when [sub-lieutenant] Mahmoud [Ghassan] asked, ‘So, what’s the next step?'” Akhtar said. “I was at a loss.”

The 28-year-old fanatic said he and his associates had initially assumed that at least one member of their group had the physics and engineering background necessary to construct a thermonuclear device.

“Many eyes were upon me,” said Basim Aljawad, whose knowledge of physics did not extend to the principles of nuclear fission. “I make nail bombs. That’s it.”

My 2 cents of opinion on it : It is bloody funny and terribly scary. Funny because i can’t believe that someone had the means to get a raw material for a potential weapon and still do not have a clue on what to do with it. Scary because, obtaining plutonium, for motivated terrorists seems easy.

“I still believe in taking the lives of American civilians as revenge for the atrocities committed on our brothers, our wives, and our daughters,” Akhtar said. “I’m just not entirely sure it’s worth a headache this big.”

It is really sad to see such intense hatred against any nation, whoever it might be. On top of that, when such people also have the means to fulfill their wishes, the world doesn’t seem that safe anymore.


At last, i passed’em all !

Yes, i passed all my qualifiers. I am officially a PhD candidate now !

Next, i am completely disappointed with the way i performed today. Eventhough, i am sure that my prof would have argued in favor of me, i feel disgusted with the way i stared blankly for some of the questions – some because i couldn’t remember and some because i couldn’t understand the russian accent of another prof. I definitely didn’t blurt out everything i knew and made myself look like an unprepared idiot. Overall, i did much worse than i could have possibly imagined.

Ironically i did pass and now i do not know how to feel. Am i supposed to feel bad about how i flunked this or am i supposed to feel happy that i did manage to pass.

Either way, i am out of here to get a drink.


Not quite a PhD candidate yet

Yup. I’ve got another round of oral qualifier and they’ve decided to conduct it this Friday. Can’t wait for the damn thing to get over when i can breathe the free air and say ‘I am a PhD student’ !

Hopefully, all the drinking after the written qualifier results hasn’t eaten away my gray cells to an irreparable extent. Well, gotta go and read more and start preparing for the test more seriously. Other than that, just the usual things : research, coding, classes, assignments and presentations.

Will chip in again with a post on Friday to write about the oral experience ๐Ÿ˜‰ Until then, adios amigos.

Nuclear Plant Has Flaw Undetected for 19 Years

This is scary at first sight.Excerpt from the article

A potential problem with the emergency reactor core cooling system at the nation’s largest nuclear power plant went undetected from 1986, when it began producing power, until last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) and the plant operator confirmed Thursday.

The issue was identified when engineers at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station did an analysis after NRC inspectors raised questions at a detailed inspection early last week. The NRC was following up to see if earlier cooling system problems had been fixed.

The review showed the emergency cooling system may not operate as expected to provide water to reactor cores after a small leak in the reactor cooling lines, NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said.

Practically, for this flaw to lead to any kind of disatrous results, lots of redundant safety systems need to fail together. Well, i am not refuting the fact that such an incident could have happened anytime in the past 19 years of its operation but chances for a complete failure and a meltdown are slim. Nevertheless, this is definitely a serious issue and hopefully, the NRC will bring in a stricter system to check all the flaws in all operating reactors.

God, i dont even want to begin to imagine what the media fuss will be, on all this.

Hot new fuel for nuclear reactors

Before i delve in to the implication of what the following article means, let me give you a brief introduction about Nuclear fuel and how we produce power. This is for the uninitiated and i provide this in a hope to write more technically and to help you learn something new today.

First, you have the reactor core, loaded with nuclear fuel. Neutrons induce fission in a fuel element and once a fission occurs, it releases 2-3 more neutrons. If you can capture those fission neutrons and induce more fission, you end up with a sustaining chain reaction.

Now each fission reaction releases about 200 Mev of energy. That’s exactly 3.204E-11 Joules. That’s freakin miniscule but when we have enriched uranium with atomic densities > 1E22(btw, this is normal. Parallel : 1Kg of H2 has 6E23 atoms !), you could end up with net energies of about 3E11 J/s. This energy conducts out from the fuel, since there is a coolant flow in the core outside the pellet. Depending on the coolant’s heat capacity, some amount of heat is carried away by the coolant to the turbines, where with an awesome 30% efficiency, the heat is converted to power !

And that is a short gist of how Nuclear power is produced.

Now, back to my post. Here’s an article i read at NS. Look what it says below.

A Fuel pellet that is 50 per cent better at conducting heat will make nuclear power cheaper and more efficient, its developers claim.

Engineers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, added beryllium oxide to the standard uranium oxide pellets used in light water reactors. Because uranium oxide does not conduct heat well, pellets made of it tend to crack and degrade as the temperature of the reactor core rises and falls, and this means they have to be replaced before all the fuel has been used. Beryllium oxide is a better conductor of heat, so it allows the fuel pellet to cool more efficiently, says Alvin Solomon, who led the research. This means the combined pellet lasts much longer than the standard one.

This would mean a higher heat conduction out of the fuel to the coolant. If we use good coolants, like liquid metals, then we could extract more heat out and generate more power as a result. Since we are energy greedy beings by nature, this research has great value and potential in reducing the energy craving !

Super-efficient N-reactors

China plans to build super-efficient N-reactors

Chinese scientists are planning to build super-efficient nuclear reactors by 2010 that can maximise uranium burn-up, minimise waste while quenching the energy crunch facing the communist giant.

If the first experimental reactor, set to be in operation by 2010, is successful, the technology could help relieve China’s uranium supply problems as the country accelerates nuclear power plant construction.

China Academy of Atomic Science President Zhao Zhixiang said a team of scientists has already mapped a detailed plan to speed up research and utilisation of the so-called next-generation fast reactors.

The new reactors are expected to burn 60-70 per cent of their uranium fuel — a conventional reactor consumes only 0.7 per cent of the uranium it is fed.

“This kind of reactor can greatly improve the efficiency of fuel burn-up, and we are trying our best to put the experimental reactor into use over the next five years,” Zhao was quoted as saying by China Daily.

Current reactors are only able to harness the power of 0.7 per cent of the radioactive isotopes found in natural uranium.

In the fast reactor, the process is optimised so that more of the previously untapped isotopes can be used to generate electricity, burning-up fuel at least 60 times more efficiently than in a normal reactor.

-Cool. Now i wonder what kind of reactors would that be ?! Even the chinese guy in my department didn’t have any idea about this but hey if this works, another thumbs up for Nuke power !


Qualifiers ? A thing of the past …

Just got the hot news. I have cleared all three papers in my qualification exam ! I rock ! I am high with excitement now. If the world is going to collapse onto itself, please let it be now.

Good things aside, i still have a oral qualifier round to look forward to. I was told that i was a bit weak with Reactor Physics and so have 2 major Gods in nuclear department specializing in Xr physics on my committee for the oral.

Now this is going to be fun. Before even the thought of starting preparation for the oral, i am going out to party ! Woohoo …

Another prejudiced anti-Nuclear article

Why nuclear power is not the answer

An excerpt from the article.

“Nuclear power is not a solution to climate change. It could only ever provide for a tiny proportion of our energy needs and this would be at great cost to the taxpayer, the environment and would pose a threat to the safety of the public. Clean technologies are available and they need the Government’s support. Tony Blair must stop talking to the nuclear lobby and speed up investment low -carbon, renewable and efficient energy technologies.”

What are those renewable energy sources which will both satisfy the rising energy needs and be economical as well as efficient ? I really would like to know. But Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper fails to answer that.

Probably the biggest misconception on Nuclear power is that “Nuclear power has a poor safety record”. If you want to base that future safety of reactors are dictated by 2 accidents that happened more than 25 years back, then God help these people.

Maybe the Director needs to learn from how France satisfies its energy needs. More than 70% of power is produced from nuclear reactors and how many accidents have they had till now ?? Zilch. Take that for your record and stop brooding over Chernobyl and TMI already.

It is really sad that man’s prejudice overpowers logic (Well that applies to my comments too, but hey, this is my blog !).

Nuclear or not : that is the question


Read on for a researcher’s viewpoint argument on whether or not “Nuclear Energy” is the best option around at this stage of development. This is a free ebook that covers in detail the different risks and benefits of nuclear power from a scientific perspective but simple enough to be understood by everyone. Quite frankly, i find the book written without much prejudice to either side of the argument. Some of the analysis shown is quite interesting too.

I still haven’t had time to read the whole book compbut will comment in more detail when i do. For now, here’s the quote that caught my eye and led me to the book.

If nuclear power was used to the fullest practical extent in the United States, we would need about 300 power plants of the type now in use. The waste produced each year would then be enough to kill (300 x 50 million =) over 10 billion people. I have authored over 250 scientific papers over the past 35 years presenting tens of thousands of pieces of data, but that “over 10 billion” number is the one most frequently quoted. Rarely quoted, however, are the other numbers given along with it: we produce enough chlorine gas each year to kill 400 trillion people, enough phosgene to kill 20 trillion, enough ammonia and hydrogen cyanide to kill 6 trillion with each, enough barium to kill 100 billion, and enough arsenic trioxide to kill 10 billion. All of these numbers are calculated, as for the radioactive waste, on the assumption that all of it gets into people. I hope these comparisons dissolve the fear that, in generating nuclear electricity, we are producing unprecedented quantities of toxic materials.

– If you ask me, that is a profound and insightful statement. Another thumbs up for the book ! Definitely a must read for everyone – both pro and anti nuclear folks.

Link via Slashdot