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Thread: Touring Chernobyl In 2010

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remco View Post
    I'm pretty sure Earth can't carry that many people, so something is going to happen. But any estimate about something that far in the future will be very much in the realm of fiction.
    Yea, I'm pretty sure humanity won't kill themselves just because of the demographic explosion, that would be really irrational. But it's hard to predict anything.

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    Again, the use of thorium as fuel for energy production relies in future technology developments, it doesn't solve the problems associated with waste management, and it doesn't avoid the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation. In all these fronts, it is a better alternative than uranium, but not the alternative.

    If we want to play with hypothetic cases, wind power alone, with current technology can supply 5 times the world's present energy needs. Indefinitely. (Wikipedia, Wind power article, Theoretical potential-world section. More down-to-earth, as I write, wind is supplying a fourth of Spain's total energy consumption. This alone is impressive, and solid proof that there's no need to play around with nuclear reactors, radioactive waste and raw materials dependency, let alone using civilian nuclear power as an excuse to complement or develop military programs.

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    It's not the potential harvestable energy that will limit wind power, but practicalities of deployment. For example, the UK consumes a peak of approximately 55GW electrical power. Average output of a new wind turbine installation is 3.2MW, so it'd take ~18000 of them to fulfill our current electricity requirements, and that's before factoring in downtime. It's also worth noting that while people have been praising wind power as the future for the past 30 years at least (I remember this distinctly from primary school), we presently have installed wind generation base no greater than a single nuclear or fossil fuel power plant (~1GW last I checked).

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    Quote Originally Posted by yotambien View Post
    Right, I don't know about those numbers, but you will also want to take into account the number of deaths from, say, wind farms, as well as those from uranium mining.
    14 deaths from wind turbines in the US.
    http://www.wind-works.org/articles/BreathLife.html
    What about rare earth metals needed to make wind turbines and solar panels, and the larger amount of concrete and steel?

    I don't think the fact that they were going to die anyway has any bearing on the 4000 fatal cases caused by the radiation.
    The 4000 deaths figure is a prediction that cannot be verified - we don't know whether those people actually died or not. It's also based on a model that has growing evidence against it (Linear No-Threshold). Aside from an increase in thyroid cancer (which is easily treatable) shortly after the incident, there was no increase in either leukemia or solid cancers observed.
    http://www.greenfacts.org/en/chernobyl/index.htm

    Excuse me? Out of the 4 links above, only the last one corresponds to an article in an academic journal. And yet that's the one you tag as "propaganda with little substance".
    I believe the article's findings are grossly misrepresented, so it does qualify as propaganda.
    1. It cites a single article.
    2. The article studies something which is of little relevance, like insect count, in an attempt to show that Chernobyl was bad. The cause for the lower count might have been different - for example, wild environments have less flowering plants.
    3. Mentioning the ridiculous 68 000 deaths figure from Greenpeace immediately betrays the writer's anti-nuclear sentiment.

    I don't know about cans of soda. However: "In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are 'millions of gallons of radioactive waste' as well as 'thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material' and also 'huge quantities of contaminated soil and water'."
    Thousands of tons over 60 years of commercial nuclear power is a very small amount per person, once you consider that there are 300 million people in the US. 100 million tons of coal waste are generated in that country every year. Also consider that a lot of that waste is actually a legacy of the nuclear weapons program.

    "Research in Japan has hinted that it is possibe to tap the vast resources of uranium contained in the world's oceans. At present, only laboratory-scale quantities have been extracted and the cost of extraction is estimated to be very high, on the order of USD 300/KgU". The same report, referring to the recovery of uranium from phosphates, a technology which it describes as being mature, says "but high recovery costs limit the utilisation of these resources, with estimated production costs for a new 100 tU/year project, would be in the range of USD 60-100/KgU including capital investment". And this is 3-5 times cheaper than extracting it from the sea. You make your conclusions.
    Yes, there is a lot of cheap uranium still left to be extracted. It makes sense to go for the cheap sources first. I only point out that uranium shortage is not a problem, because there is an effectively inexhaustible source only slightly more expensive than the current ones. Uranium costs are less than 10% of the operating cost of a nuclear power plant, so this increase won't make nuclear power uneconomical.

    In any case, what I'd like to see is an economic study comparing all the alternatives in energy production, including the extraction of raw materials, design of power stations, maintenance, decommissioning and waste treatment costs.
    This is called levelized cost. Most analyses say that nuclear is slightly more expensive than coal or gas but less expensive than wind or solar. Analyses that say that wind is less expensive typically do not consider costs associated with intermittency.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levelised_energy_cost

    Perhaps, but here, as others in this thread, you are advocating the use of nuclear energy with arguments that refer to technology that is not feasible currently. In the same vein, I advocate photovoltaic or even nuclear fusion, since it's almost sure they will both get to a point where they can be made commercially viable. With the added benefit that these two technologies really are clean and inexhaustible, and in the first case at least (not so sure about the second), not linked to obnoxious nuclear weapons programs.
    Nuclear energy has nothing to do with nuclear wepons, unless you want to say that it's wrong to use gasoline because it can be used to make napalm. It's simply not possible to make weapons grade material with the currently proposed breeder designs.
    The difference between breeders and fusion is that working breeder reactors have already been constructed and operated for long periods of time (200 reactor-years of operation). It is feasible. We just don't need it right now - current LWRs are good as well, we just can't keep using them forever. Once they're decommissioned, it would be wise to build the new types of reactors.
    PV will require vast areas of land and a lot of energy storage to generate the amounts of electricity necessary in a modern society. I don't think it will ever become a major (more than 5%) energy source - the limits are not in the current technology but in the physics. It's also a complete non-starter in Europe, where the peak energy consumption is in winter and PV generates very little power then.

    I don't see what relevance these data have with anything.
    I relates to uranium mining. Any impacts from uranium mining are likely to be offset by reduced impacts from iron ore and rare earth minerals mining.

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    I found some data. Currently there are 2757 turbines installed in the UK, amounting to over 4 GW. There are 1738 MW under construction, 7147 MW more approved and 9770 MW in planning awaiting approval. At the EU level, the target for 2020 is to produce a 20% of the total from renewables. These are not environmentalist dreams but actual signed policies (Wiki, Wind power in the UK). You are right pointing out that potential generation is exactly that, potential, and it's subjected to many constrains. Still, it gives an idea of where the limits with current technology are. For the UK it is estimated in 2 TW average power output for offshore wind farms, which is a hell of a lot (Source).

    I don't think many people advocate the exclusive use of wind energy; that would be unrealistic. But the developments in the leading countries in the use of this technology are encouraging and prove that a good part of the energy needs can be obtained from this source. I too remember the evolution of wind energy, but perhaps from another point of view. I only started seeing turbines when I was a kid, while my father drove the family to his home town. Since then the number of them grew year after year, to the point that my region became the spanish first wind energy producer. Not anymore, since now they are everywhere--hence the fantastic figures Spain has in terms of wind power production (36 GW in 2009).

    The case of the UK is obviously different, and it can due be a lot of reasons, not all of them related with the particular merits of the technologies discussed. Thus, for instance, 10 out of the 19 nuclear reactors in the UK were opened under Tatcher's regime, who was very keen on this kind of energy (it would not be very difficult to link this with the mass-closure of coal mines, the 20000 thousand jobs lost and her desire to destroy the trade unions). Then, it's true that the UK is quite densely populated compared to Spain, as well as being much smaller, so the potential for onshore wind farming is quite less. Still, you'll agree that in 30 years the technology has evolved a lot, from the 20-30 KW each turbine produced then and the several MW they produce today. I don't have any sort of numbers, but how much do you think it was spent on nuclear research compared to renewable energies during the past 50 years?

    Ultimately, a responsible energy policy will have to include several sources, not all of them renewable (at the moment at least), provide incentives for power efficiency measures such as house insulation, set stringent limits on industries such as car manufacturing (*), and invest heavily on research and development of new technologies. There is no magic bullet, but I think we can do pretty well until fusion is here ; )

    (*) Which is being done rather well. I think it was in The Guardian last week that I read about the partnership between Renault, Nissan and Daimler (Mercedes), to share research resources for the production of small, energy efficient cars; a move that other manufactures are taking given the further restrictions in CO2 emissions they will have to face shortly. Apparently Mercedes doesn't have the know-how in this sector, since they traditionally focused on making big fucking cars, and are much in need of a technology transfer if they want to be competitive in a segment that it's predicted to gain a lot of market share.

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    At this point, I'd just like to say that I've been really enjoying this thread

    I'd also like to bear in mind the potential of nuclear power as far as space travel goes - a lot of the limitations of current space programs are due to the pretty extreme quantity of fuel needed to attain escape velocity (and as an additional point, the fuel used to transport that fuel). We'd really need a very much denser energy source if we ever intend to scale up our efforts in space, which pretty much leaves you looking for more potent fossil fuels (probably rare) or nuclear drives.

    I've just watched an interesting Google tech talk by Robert Bussard regarding the experiments he was involved with to the end of his life trying to optimise the containment strategy regarding IEC fusors, for which he sites the possibility of much more mass-efficient space engines than anything available today, as his primary motivation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DuSTman View Post
    I'd also like to bear in mind the potential of nuclear power as far as space travel goes
    Nonsense. You nuclear guys are obsessed in blowing us all up, and now you want to export it to outer space. There are much better, clean and renewable alternatives, like using... THA WIND!

    : P

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tweenk View Post
    14 deaths from wind turbines in the US.
    http://www.wind-works.org/articles/BreathLife.html
    What about rare earth metals needed to make wind turbines and solar panels, and the larger amount of concrete and steel?


    The 4000 deaths figure is a prediction that cannot be verified - we don't know whether those people actually died or not. It's also based on a model that has growing evidence against it (Linear No-Threshold). Aside from an increase in thyroid cancer (which is easily treatable) shortly after the incident, there was no increase in either leukemia or solid cancers observed.
    http://www.greenfacts.org/en/chernobyl/index.htm


    I believe the article's findings are grossly misrepresented, so it does qualify as propaganda.
    1. It cites a single article.
    2. The article studies something which is of little relevance, like insect count, in an attempt to show that Chernobyl was bad. The cause for the lower count might have been different - for example, wild environments have less flowering plants.
    3. Mentioning the ridiculous 68 000 deaths figure from Greenpeace immediately betrays the writer's anti-nuclear sentiment.


    Thousands of tons over 60 years of commercial nuclear power is a very small amount per person, once you consider that there are 300 million people in the US. 100 million tons of coal waste are generated in that country every year. Also consider that a lot of that waste is actually a legacy of the nuclear weapons program.



    Yes, there is a lot of cheap uranium still left to be extracted. It makes sense to go for the cheap sources first. I only point out that uranium shortage is not a problem, because there is an effectively inexhaustible source only slightly more expensive than the current ones. Uranium costs are less than 10% of the operating cost of a nuclear power plant, so this increase won't make nuclear power uneconomical.


    This is called levelized cost. Most analyses say that nuclear is slightly more expensive than coal or gas but less expensive than wind or solar. Analyses that say that wind is less expensive typically do not consider costs associated with intermittency.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levelised_energy_cost


    Nuclear energy has nothing to do with nuclear wepons, unless you want to say that it's wrong to use gasoline because it can be used to make napalm. It's simply not possible to make weapons grade material with the currently proposed breeder designs.
    The difference between breeders and fusion is that working breeder reactors have already been constructed and operated for long periods of time (200 reactor-years of operation). It is feasible. We just don't need it right now - current LWRs are good as well, we just can't keep using them forever. Once they're decommissioned, it would be wise to build the new types of reactors.
    PV will require vast areas of land and a lot of energy storage to generate the amounts of electricity necessary in a modern society. I don't think it will ever become a major (more than 5%) energy source - the limits are not in the current technology but in the physics. It's also a complete non-starter in Europe, where the peak energy consumption is in winter and PV generates very little power then.


    I relates to uranium mining. Any impacts from uranium mining are likely to be offset by reduced impacts from iron ore and rare earth minerals mining.
    OK, I don't want to go into a battle of figures. We would soon start throwing papers at each other, and I can't afford it. I think we can agree there's a lot of misinformation from both the pro and anti nuclear sides. I can accept your criticism of the link you provided that cites an article in a journal, but if you look at the others, they aren't much better--two of them are accounts of journalists that travelled to the affected area and were surprised because they didn't see an sterile land: hardly of any scientific value. I think the existence of an exclusion zone of several hundred square kilometers speaks for itself.

    Regarding the amount of nuclear waste per capita, you may be right, but it only offers a partial view of the situation. Remember that the biggest qualms against this kind of waste is that it lasts for a ridiculously large amount of time, leaving a legacy to future generations that should make us think twice about it.

    I pointed out the current low feasibility of recovering uranium from sea water and the use of thorium as nuclear fuel as part of the same argument: if you advocate nuclear power do so under the same rules you set to critic other sources of energy. This is, it's unfair saying that renewables are not feasible currently and at the same time pointing out how convenient the nuclear option is...citing future nuclear technology. I don't maintain that photovoltaic panels will be viable sooner than, say, thorium reactors, it was just an example. The same goes for nuclear fusion.

    Levelised energy cost is exactly what I was looking for, thanks. It seems to me that, apart from fossil sources--from a purely economic point of view--there is no clear winner that would make for a no-brainer option. The differences can be accepted and afforded by the public, as the deployment of wind farms in many countries shows.

    All these points can be discussed and provide for an interesting debate. Where I think you really are wrong is in you assertion that nuclear energy has nothing to do with nuclear weapons programs. I'm not at all an expert in this field, but I'd bet anything that the necessary expertise to deploy a civilian nuclear program has many areas in common with that needed for a nuclear weapons project. There's probably also a very good correlation between the countries that first had access to nuclear weapons and the countries that first made use of nuclear reactors for energy production. In the few reports I read during the past days to get data to back up my words in this thread, there were mentions about the drawbacks of different nuclear technologies from the point of view of nuclear proliferation. See, for instance, the article on thorium from the World Nuclear Association website. You'll see that precisely the risk of using the thorium cycle to obtain certain fissile uranium isotope is counted as a disadvantage; and hence the attempts to bring in new designs that preclude this possibility. Also notable is the Indian pursuit of thorium technology, which apparently is not only explained by the availability of great reserves, but also by the fact that, as a non-member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it had problems in importing uranium from countries such as Australia, which require a commitment to civilian usage of the sold material. I had some trouble finding something that wouldn't look too suspicious to you--i.e. not from clear anti-nuclear positions--, but finally I have something that may persuade you about the reality of these concerns: Assessing the proliferation risks of civilian nuclear programmes is a downloadable book chapter I found in some non-propaganda-looking website (Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford Univ.). From the abstract:

    Nuclear power plants alone are not a proliferation risk. Without enrichment or reprocessing capabilities, power-reactor fuel, whether fresh or spent, cannot be used for the production of nuclear weapons. There are various ways, however, in which reactor projects and related nuclear fuel-cycle facilities could be used to further a nuclear-weapons development programme. This chapter describes these various possible proliferation pathways. It should be stressed that no successful nuclear weapons programme has ever relied on commercial reactors. Most of the states that have pursued weapons programmes went on to construct nuclear power plants, but only after their dedicated military programmes were successful, nearing success or had been abandoned. The scenarios for proliferation activities related to nuclear power plants described here are, therefore, only hypothetical, but they cannot be ruled out, especially in light of the increasing availability of nuclear-weapons-related technologies spread by black-market networks.

    Now, perhaps you take a different reading, but to me it seems obvious that a civilian nuclear programme does facilitate the military option, and that this possibility is taken seriously at an international level.

    To finish, and since there seems to be in this thread some concern about global population growth and energy demand, let me mention the preferred solution of 4 out of 10 dentists, I mean, Sci-Fi writers: Dyson spheres. Such as this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yotambien View Post
    I found some data. Currently there are 2757 turbines installed in the UK, amounting to over 4 GW. There are 1738 MW under construction, 7147 MW more approved and 9770 MW in planning awaiting approval. At the EU level, the target for 2020 is to produce a 20% of the total from renewables. These are not environmentalist dreams but actual signed policies
    I think 20% from renewables is the practical limit in Europe. It should be possible to accomodate that much intermittent sources with existing infrastructure. Beyond 20%, you need to build a lot of gas turbines as backup, which makes you very dependent on Russian natural gas (and I doubt anyone likes that).


    Another important thing: you need to take into account that the average capacity factor for onshore wind farms is around 20-25%, and for offshore farms 33%. For nuclear power plants it's over 90%, lower in France (around 75%) where they have to use them for load following. Those 4GW of UK wind turbines are in practical terms less powerful that the single Sizewell B reactor, and might cost more (no data at hand).

    Denmark already has problems with 20% wind, they essentially give excess power to the Norwegians for free to their vast number of pumped hydro facilities and they buy it back at a premium when the wind dies down. Recently Nord Pool changed the price floor so that now the Danes might end up having to pay Norwegians to take their excess power! That's one of the reasons the electricity prices in Denmark are the highest in EU.
    http://www.nordpoolspot.com/Market_I...October-2009-/

    My position is that "traditional" renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels) is an expensive and impractical way of running a modern civilization. We've been using fossil fuel sources for over a century. As the dead trees run out, instead of moving towards sources of energy with much lower density (wind, solar), we should be moving towards sources with higher density (nuclear, and in longer term fusion).

    Since then the number of them grew year after year, to the point that my region became the spanish first wind energy producer. Not anymore, since now they are everywhere--hence the fantastic figures Spain has in terms of wind power production (36 GW in 2009).
    That's the main problem - land use. 36GW of nameplate capacity, after correcting for the capacity factor, is equal to six EPRs, or three two-unit power plants, each of which takes about two square kilometers. Compare this to the hundreds of wind turbines that had to be built "everywhere" to reach this figure.

    I don't have any sort of numbers, but how much do you think it was spent on nuclear research compared to renewable energies during the past 50 years?
    I have some. Renewables (excluding hydro) got over 2 times more R&D money from the US government than nuclear. Nuclear provided about 20% of electricity, while non-hydro renewables less than 1%. The disparity is rather interesting.
    http://www.issues.org/22.3/realnumbers.html

    Some people might claim that nuclear got a lot more R&D money, and give some numbers that support this. This is only true if you add the cost of the US nuclear weapons program.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yotambien View Post
    Regarding the amount of nuclear waste per capita, you may be right, but it only offers a partial view of the situation. Remember that the biggest qualms against this kind of waste is that it lasts for a ridiculously large amount of time, leaving a legacy to future generations that should make us think twice about it.
    Without reprocessing, it lasts about 10 000 years, after that it's less radioactive than uranium ore. The millions of years figure Greenpeace gives is when you multiply the half-life of longest-lived waste products by 10, the rule of thumb for complete decay, but the radioactivity diminishes below that of uranium ore well before complete decay of all radionuclides. With reprocessing, the required storage time is reduced to 300 years - there are many buildings older than this that are still in use. Interestingly, anti-nuclear groups oppose reprocessing. (In fact they oppose doing almost anything with nuclear waste.)

    I recently found out about a nearly perfect nuclear waste disposal option that was killed by Greenpeace because they did not understand what it was about.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs...bed/seabed.htm

    This is not entirely relevant, but not many people consider the CCS waste issues a serious problem (store millions of tons of volatile gas *forever*). At the same time the nuclear waste issues are a favorite subject of the anti people, even though they are infinitely easier to solve (store thousands of tons of inert, completely insoluble solid for a few thousand years).

    I pointed out the current low feasibility of recovering uranium from sea water and the use of thorium as nuclear fuel as part of the same argument: if you advocate nuclear power do so under the same rules you set to critic other sources of energy. This is, it's unfair saying that renewables are not feasible currently and at the same time pointing out how convenient the nuclear option is...citing future nuclear technology. I don't maintain that photovoltaic panels will be viable sooner than, say, thorium reactors, it was just an example. The same goes for nuclear fusion.
    Current nuclear power technology (advanced LWRs) can provide all of the world's electricity needs for the next 50-200 years, and can stand on its own merits. I mentioned the other technologies still in he pipeline for people that want to think more long-term. Nuclear technology is not a dead end, it's actually a giant area of unknown, and the few areas we explored so far are full of marvels.

    All these points can be discussed and provide for an interesting debate. Where I think you really are wrong is in you assertion that nuclear energy has nothing to do with nuclear weapons programs. I'm not at all an expert in this field, but I'd bet anything that the necessary expertise to deploy a civilian nuclear program has many areas in common with that needed for a nuclear weapons project. There's probably also a very good correlation between the countries that first had access to nuclear weapons and the countries that first made use of nuclear reactors for energy production.
    Nuclear weapons can help nuclear power, it's rather obvious. However, the reverse is not true: nuclear power does not significantly help with the development of nuclear weapons. There are other, easier ways of obtaining weapons than using power reactors.

    In the few reports I read during the past days to get data to back up my words in this thread, there were mentions about the drawbacks of different nuclear technologies from the point of view of nuclear proliferation. See, for instance, the article on thorium from the World Nuclear Association website. You'll see that precisely the risk of using the thorium cycle to obtain certain fissile uranium isotope is counted as a disadvantage; and hence the attempts to bring in new designs that preclude this possibility.
    Previous point from the same link: "Separated U-233 is always contaminated with traces of U-232 (69 year half-life but whose daughter products such as thallium-208 are strong gamma emitters with very short half-lives). Although this confers proliferation resistance to the fuel cycle, it results in increased costs." In other words, the radiation will destroy any electronics you put anywhere near the core, and the decay heat will prematurely set off the explosive lenses. You might be able to make something that explodes, but making a working weapon is going to be extremely hard. (Those are very different things; for example, the first hydrogen bomb, Ivy Mike, was absolutely useless as a weapon.)

    The proliferation risk is no bigger than from an LWR, because thorium reactors do not require enrichment facilities. The proliferation concern is included on the list, because it's theoretically possible to build an U-233 device that explodes, but I don't think many people consider this to be a likely route to weapons proliferation.

    In any case, I have a feeling that nuclear proliferation is somewhat overrated. The world will not end if another country like Iran gets nuclear weapons (though the existing nuclear weapon states will probably be elitist bastards about it). The possibility of terrorists constructing a bomb is very remote - they are not even capable of manufacturing the required explosives. (TATP cannot be used in a nuclear bomb.)

    Also notable is the Indian pursuit of thorium technology, which apparently is not only explained by the availability of great reserves, but also by the fact that, as a non-member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it had problems in importing uranium from countries such as Australia, which require a commitment to civilian usage of the sold material.
    Until recently, the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group were forbidden from selling to any non-NPT state, and there were extra restrictions imposed by some countries. However the Indian market is getting too big to ignore and the NSG, UK and the US now allow trade in nuclear equipment and materials with India for peaceful purposes.
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ne....aspx?id=23726
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ne....aspx?id=23540

    The NPT is an interesting topic for a separate discussion, but in this particular case I don't see how it could affect the best energy choices for the majority of countries which have signed the NPT.

    Now, perhaps you take a different reading, but to me it seems obvious that a civilian nuclear programme does facilitate the military option, and that this possibility is taken seriously at an international level.
    All that I read from this summary is that a nuclear weapons program facilitates the civilian power program. There are some theoretical ways in which the civilian program could be used to jump-start the weapons program, but none have been ever used in practice, so it's not known whether they would really work.

    I also recommend this post, related to the uranium fuel cycle.
    http://depletedcranium.com/why-you-c...om-spent-fuel/

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