Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It Ain't Mr. Fusion, But It'll Do For Now

I know what I want for Christmas! Instapundit links to a story about a new Toshiba MicroNuclear power plant, and backs up the news release with several versions of a story about Toshiba offering to provide a mini-nuke to Galena, Alaska. What he doesn't seem to realize is that they're talking about two entirely different units. The Galena unit is described as a 10MW liquid-sodium cooled reactor, about 50-60 feet tall and eight feet in diameter. This doesn't include the heat exchanger, steam turbine and other ancillary equipment. This would appear to be similar technology to that being used on nuclear submarines. There are no moving parts in the reactor itself except for the coolant flowing in the piping.

The story initially linked by Glenn refers to a 200kW reactor, about 20 feet by six feet (again, sans heat exchanger, turbine and ancillary equipment, I'd imagine) that uses liquid lithium as its coolant. Ten megawatts is about 13,400Hp. Two hundred kilowatts is about 270Hp. A 200kW generator can produce about 800 amps at 240VAC, enough to power about 6-8 large homes. This thing is tiny. A 10MW plant would run a nuke sub well. A 200kW plant would run a fairly small pleasure boat, except the plant would be bigger than the boat.

The only problem I've got with either is the extreme reactivity of the coolants. Both sodium and lithium are extremely reactive, and burn violently when exposed to water. They're also solids at "room temperature," so I wonder about the warm-up process. The story says that the micro-reactor should be good for 40 years before needing refueling, and it should produce power at about 5¢/kWH - I'd assume that's the operating cost, not the amortized capital cost. No mention of a price tag is given, and there is nothing about the unit on Toshiba's Nuclear Power business unit web page.

Still, I think it'd be cool to have one. Just the thing to power up the backyard synchrotron!

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