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NASA Power Technology

NASA's Basement Nuclear Reactor 368

cylonlover writes "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, is correct, the future of energy may lie in a nuclear reactor small enough and safe enough to be installed where the home water heater once sat. Using weak nuclear forces that turn nickel and hydrogen into a new source of atomic energy, the process offers a light, portable means of producing tremendous amounts of energy for the amount of fuel used. It could conceivably power homes, revolutionize transportation and even clean the environment."
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NASA's Basement Nuclear Reactor

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  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <ChristianHGrossNO@SPAMyahoo.ca> on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:14AM (#42977013)

    While I think technically this is possible, IMO it will never happen. Imagine the following tagline:

    "Have enough electricity for 20 years"

    Do you really think any power plant company will want this? Of course maybe somebody will sell for 20 years, and 35K, thus making it not that useful. The only reason why we are not using our own generators right now is because they are too tedious and twiddly factor. If you could produce reliable energy without the twiddle factor we would not be in this mess we are.

  • Re:This is stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdenham ( 747985 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:54AM (#42977169)

    Three comments:
    1) Not everything scales up at linear-or-better rates;
    2) Better distribution of anything reduces the impact of failures; and
    3) Who the hell said anything about no more power stations anyway?

  • by Stoutlimb ( 143245 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @05:09AM (#42977219)

    If you read the article, the reactions only work if you subject it to THz wave EM energy. So damaging this type of reactor would only ever have one kind of effect... it would stop working and go back to being a big lump of inert metal. Assuming it works in the first place after all.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @05:57AM (#42977459)

    IMO it will never happen. Imagine the following tagline:

    "Have enough electricity for 20 years"

    Do you really think any power plant company will want this?

    About 20 years ago a friend and I were discussing hard disks. My first PC had a 300 MB hard drive, and he had just gotten one with a 1 GB drive. I noted how capacity was growing, and some day we would have 1 TB drives. He said no, the hard drive manufacturers would never allow it. According to him, 1 TB was so much storage you could buy one and never have to buy another drive for the rest of your life. No way the hard drive manufacturers would ever sell something which put themselves out of business.

    Well, we all know how that turned out. If you build it, people will find a use for it. For energy, off the top of my head I can think of a few tremendously high-power applications which will probably become feasible with the advent of cheap power. You can desalinate all the drinking and irrigation water the entire planet needs. You can atomize toxic compounds like dioxins, decomposing them into their constituent elements. You can convert CO2 back into O2 gas and carbon (soot), reversing a century of greenhouse gas emissions. You can power railguns to launch large quantities of fuel and other supplies into orbit to construct spacecraft for manned interplanetary missions (currently the energy cost is $5k-$10k per kg put into low earth orbit).

    So the power companies may not be making as much money selling household power. But they'll certainly be making money selling power for other uses. Probably a lot more money than they're making now.

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @06:17AM (#42977521)

    I doubt the "all over the world". China for instance is unlikely to bow to US lobby demands.

    So if LENR turns out to be real, I expect the following sequence of events to happen:
    1) Western energy industry giants badmouth the technology and lobby against it.
    2) China, Russia and maybe India will use it anyway.
    3) Above countries have considerable economic advantages, get stronger in comparison to USA.
    4) US politicians panic. Having LENR is declared a matter of national security, opposition from energy industry giants is overruled ;-)

  • Quote Zawodny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IRWolfie- ( 1148617 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @06:47AM (#42977679)

    The first line of the article "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASAâ(TM)s Langley Research Center, is correct" is misleading. Zawodny hasn't stated that it works or that he thinks it's definitely a real effect.

    Let's look at what Zawodny actually has stated before:

    Many extraordinary claims have been made in 2010. In my scientific opinion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I find a distinct absence of the latter. So let me be very clear here. While I personally find sufficient demonstration that LENR effects warrant further investigation, I remain skeptical. Furthermore, I am unaware of any clear and convincing demonstrations of any viable commercial device producing useful amounts of net energy.

    http://joe.zawodny.com/index.php/2012/01/14/technology-gateway-video/ [zawodny.com]

    That he still holds this opinion is consistent with the quotes in the gizmag article:

    I'm interested in understanding whether the phenomenon is real, what it's all about. ... All we really need is that one bit of irrefutable, reproducible proof that we have a system that works.

  • by Kilo Kilo ( 2837521 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @08:19AM (#42978147)
    I agree that this will never happen, but for very different reasons. It's the NIMBY's that will be the death of this, because NUCLEAR SCARY. I used to live near Indian Point [wikipedia.org], widely argued to be the most dangerous nuclear power plant in the U.S. I actually had a chance to tour the plant (if you have a chance to do this, jump at it, I'm sure most slashdotters would enjoy it) and see how it operates and all the safeguards. I'm also an engineer and I have a brain, so I understand the population density is a concern, but people have this horrible fear that it will explode or that it will kill fish. Yes, this is a real concern; the Hudson River Sturgeon may be at risk. If you're not familiar with the plight of the Hudson River Sturgeon let me put this in context: the Hudson River is so polluted that some government agency recommends you do not eat more than one fish per month from the river and no one is eating Sturgeon anyway. Why does this matter? It doesn't. Even if it did, the fish are not actually in danger, there is an extensive screening system around the water inlets that protects the fish. However, these are the kinds of arguments people come up with to combat something that they're afraid of. These people can't live without electricity, but refuse any and all forms of power generation. They don't want wind turbines because it will disrupt the landscape and kill birds. They don't want solar because it's too expensive. Why not put new technology into the old coal-fired plant? No. Too dirty. Drill for natural gas (even without fracking)? No. We don't want those big trucks driving all over. We have been reduced to importing electricity from Canada, but wait! Stop! I don't like that! There is a plan to run a large cable down the Hudson River to NYC (literally an extension cord from Canada). It will be underwater most of the way. For the small stretch it will have to come onto land it will be buried under railroad tracks. There are people fighting this because... well, I don't really know why. This is what I hear day in and day out. If some technology like this was allowed, I'm sure my local newspaper will create a map [slashdot.org] of people with nuclear reactors in their basement.
  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:11AM (#42978917)

    "But what about the terrorists?"

    I'm sure the CIA would love them to be developing bombs that have no net energy release. It makes givng them cupcake recipes [huffingtonpost.com] look positively hazardous.

    In the UK its illegal for anyone to possess information that might be useful in commiting an act of terror. So that pretty much bans all knowledge

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