Good day Govenor Daniels: 7-4-07
I don't know if you are aware of the so called "Rad-waste-problem" or not. I submit to you that there is no problem. A while back I found out that these rad-waste containers or "casks," constructed around old reactor cores, have a skin temperature of 350 degrees. This is more than enough to boil water It seems plausible to me that a boiler, or steam generator could be constructed using the type of heavy tanks that are currently being used to transport liquefied propane that are mounted on semi-trailers that make large deliveries. These casks that are piling up all over the United States, and the rest of the world for that matter, which at the moment, nobody wants, could be configured into a low cost giant electrical power plant, or used to heat large buildings directly. It seems obvious to me, that making an attempt to re-use these old cores would solve several problems at once..... Consider:
1. Cost of reprocessing rad-waste.
2. Solving the rad-waste burial problems.
3. Providing "spot energy" for small users, as these units could be thought of as large water heaters.
4. Using rad waste casks to manufacture fresh water from salt water, in Death Valley.
5. Reducing the amount of transmission towers, and related problems of maintaining them.
6. Can be constructed with off the shelf items.
7. Billions of dollars in savings.
8. As safe or safer than a pebble bed reactor.
9. Are those cooling towers on nuclear plants really needed?
10. A word about coal fired plants.
Item number 1. The United States no longer reprocesses rad-waste to any great extent.This is because of bad planning, bad engineering, and human blunders that damaged and contaminated the processing plants, and made them unusable. Also, the liquid radioactive waste that has leaked out of on site storage tanks hasn't helped matters much either. Overall, these problems were caused because the amount and types of radiation that is given off from freshly discarded cores, was greatly underestimated. This is because of the "daughter" elements that are created by the fission process. Some of the elements are short lived. For example, the polonium 210 that was used to kill the Russian reporter has a half life of only thirty days. The only way you can you can obtain this element, is to mine a reactor core. At any rate, if the cores are allowed to "cool off" for ten years or so, most of the hard radiation will be greatly reduced. I submit that by creating a "middle step" of harvesting heat from these cores, instead of burying them, will drastically reduce the cost of reprocessing spent cores. Another item that is not widely known, is that between ninety five to ninety seven percent of the energy of the original core is retained in the spent cores. This is what produces the latent heat output. With the price of nuclear fuel rising, it would make a substantial cost savings to reuse old cores.
Item number 2. Solving the rad-waste burial problems. As far as I know, not one single cask of rad-waste has been safely "buried" anywhere in the United States, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Over a billion dollars has been spent on the Yucca mountains project, and has went nowhere. Also, the amount of rad-waste that has been created up to this point would more than exceed the tunnel space that has been excavated so far. By the way, have fun trying to convince all the people in the area, that it's a good idea to live down the street from a high level rad-waste dump. Reusing high level rad-waste would solve this problem. The Yucca mountains people, might not have an objection to having "low level" waste being put into tunnels. Low level waste being, boots, gloves, clothing, respirator masks, and small quantities of short lived rad-waste products, such as hospital rad-waste discards.
Item number 3. Providing "spot energy" for small individual users, as these core units could be thought of as large water heaters.... Another twist to the concept of reusing rad waste, is that believe it or not, you do not have to use the radioactive material in the old cores to generate electricity. A nuclear power plant, once you remove all the bells and whistles, is simply a giant water heater. The reason why a reactor has to be refueled, is not because it will no longer boil water, its because it will no longer boil water at the design rate of the reactor. Putting it another way... A reactor may have a 5 megawatt design rating. Over time, the power output will fall below this rating as the fuel decays. At some point after this it must be refueled to stay at the 5 megawatt power level. At this point the spent fuel is removed, and placed in a cooling pond separate from the main reactor. This is why most reactors are located next to a river, large lake, or ocean. There is so much waste heat generated, that to cool the reactor in an emergency, any municipal water source would be inadequate and overwhelmed. In the old days, the spent rods cooled for a time, in these ponds, and then were shipped to a reprocessing plant. As stated earlier, this proved to be a disaster. As a result, spent cores are now gathering dust, so to speak, at nuclear power plants all over the United States, as there is no longer a place to put them The same river water that helps cool the reactor, cools these rad waste core ponds. The result of this whole mishmash, is that much useable energy is being wasted heating bodies of water instead of large buildings.This whole situation could be resolved if the rad-waste was containerized and used at factories or large buildings to provide heat. One other example come to mind. As everyone knows, ethanol plants are springing up all over the United States. These companies use energy to separate alcohol from water. The boiling point of alcohol is about 175 degrees fahrenheit. This is all the heat you need to complete the processing of ethanol. There are over one hundred ethanol plants in the U.S. alone. Currently, most of these ethanol plants use natural gas to provide the heat input. This not only uses valuable natural gas, it also adds to the overall cost of the ethanol. Using the heat from rad-waste however, changes the situation 180 degrees. In other words, motor fuel can be manufactured at a lower cost using the casks of rad-waste that nobody else wants.
Item number 4. Using rad waste casks to manufacture fresh water from salt water, in Death Valley. According to all the unsubstantiated gossip I have been hearing over the years, the state of California is a drop or two short of fresh water, among other things. Seeing as how Death Valley is 198 feet below sea level, it would be a matter of simple physics to run a pipeline from the Pacific ocean to the valley and fill it with sea water. No pump would be needed, as gravity would provide all the siphon action that would be needed. A solar powered desalinating plant could be built at the site to provide distilled water to the rest of the state, and neighboring states. Also, a turbo generator could be placed in the pipeline to generate electricity as a by-product. It would be a simple matter to use conical mirrors to generate all of the heat that you would want, to boil all of the water that you would want, to obtain all of the distilled water that you would want.... And at night, the rad waste casks would take over in place of the sun.
By the way, here is an added bonus.... And a riddle. When I said the water could be delivered to neighboring states, this could be done for free, ignoring the pipeline costs, by using gravity, and ram pumps. Do you know what I am describing? I don't think too many people know what a ram pump is.
Item number 5. Reducing the amount of transmission towers, and related weather and maintainance problems to them. As you well know, it costs big bucks to transmit power from one place to another. A large amount of this power is used to keep buildings warm in cold weather. Centrally located bundles of rad waste casks could be located near cities to pipe steam to large buildings. This would reduce the loads on large transmission lines. Va rations of this concept have already been tried. For example: The Ford auto plant in Detroit had its own coal fired power plant. In emergences, the plant was able to supply the city with power, when the city had power problems with its own power systems.
And while I am at it, the power companies could do a better job in designing high voltage transmission towers. It seems to me that with a slight design change, the same transmission towers could also support an anemometer type of windmill. For those of you who don't know what an anemometer is, it looks like three ping pong balls cut in half on three rods, rotating on a vertical axis, turning a generator. In other words, it would be very easy to build transmission towers to move power from one place to another, and generate power at the same time. Why haven't the power companies thought of this?
Item Number 6. Can be constructed with off the shelf items. The electrical power system that exists in the United States, is the worlds largest invention. The current costs and payments run into billions of dollars per year. What I am proposing, amounts to cutting costs with no layoffs to power company employees. No new equipment has to be designed, or no different type of metal has to be forged. All that has to be accomplished, is to place old rad waste cores in casks, and these casks placed in boilers to generate heat. The shell of the boiler can be made from the same liquid propane containers that are used to transport propane on large trucks. Another rather large advantage would be small size of such heat generators. Each steam or hot water generator unit would be self contained. It, or they could be placed in remote locations, with little maintainance.The units could also be used to create hydrogen gas, which could be injected into natural gas pipelines directly, thus reliving the gas shortage problem.
Item Number 7. Billions of dollars in savings. First off, let's stop the thirty years of worthless talk of burying the rad waste in the Yucca mountain area. That idea has went nowhere, and never will. According to Wall Street Journal articles on the subject, the amount of rad waste sitting around at nuclear plants, already exceed the amount of burial space created in the tunnels. The fact is, that this material generates enough heat, that it can be used for lower level heat sources. So why not use it!
Item number 8. As safe or safer than a pebble bed reactor. For those of you people that may have come to the conclusion that this article does not make any sense, what I am proposing is exactly the same thing as the new generation of nuclear reactors, called the pebble bed reactors. In the pebble bed reactor, softball sized uranium pellets are installed in a empty reactor vessel until the proper heat output is obtained. To explain further, in a "standard reactor," uranium fuel rods are installed in the vessel, and the heat output is regulated, by raising or lowering the control rods. When the heat output drops below a certain level, the reactor has to be taken out of service until new fuel rods can be installed. In a pebble bed reactor, the softball sized spheres can be added until the heat output is at the design level of the reactor. As time passes, and the heat level of the spheres decrease, the old spheres can be removed, and new fresh spheres can be added, while the reactor is in operation. The big advantage of a pebble bed reactor, over a "standard" reactor is that the loss of coolant problem is eliminated. In a "standard reactor," a loss of coolant leads to a meltdown, in a pebble bed reactor, a loss of coolant causes no problem, as the spheres do not cause reactor floor melting.
Item Number 9. Are those cooling towers on nuclear plants really needed? It seems to me that if there is enough "leftover"heat in the power generating process, that some of it has to be diverted to the atmosphere, there is enough left to generate more electrical power. One does not have to boil water to generate electricity. Other enticement can also be used. Freon, for example, can also be used. There are also other elements, such as propane, but for this example, freon is used. There are many different types of freon, and all boil at temperatures of less than 212 degrees. Freon "steam" can also be harnessed to generate electrical power.
Item Number 10. A word about coal fired plants. I haven't the slightest idea why someone else in the power generation business hasn't thought of this, but you can greatly reduce the amount of smokestack particle discharge by simply mixing the stack exhaust gases with spare steam. Without going in to great detail, the steam would remove the fly ash, and do an excellent job of cleaning the discharge gases. The same thing happens when crud in the atmosphere gets caught in a thunderstorm. The water vapor condenses on the dust particles, and falls to earth. If this were not true, all of the dust that been put into the atmosphere since the beginning of time, would still be there.
Thank you for your attention.
56270 Chapel Lane,
South Bend, Indiana, United States of America.