Skip to main content

Why We Need Research Reactors

In ABC's capsule review of its visit to Reed College, the network went all the way to Austria to find a source to bash research reactors and the folks who use them:
Nuclear security experts say that many universities no longer need their research reactors. "I think it's a prestige subject that no scientist really wants to part with one of his wonderful toys. And a research reactor is in fact a wonderful toy as such," said Fritz Steinhausler, professor of Physics and Biophysics at the University of Salzburg in Austria.
Over at the ABC News message board, Carl Willis, a graduate student in the nuclear engineering program at Ohio State thinks a little differently:
People who watched this primetime expose will come away with the impression that all our research reactors are good for is the color-enhancement of topaz. I encourage anyone to set up a tour of their local university reactor and learn first-hand what that reactor is doing, since one apparently cannot get an honest description on television. Fundamentally, research reactors are valuable as sources of neutrons for a myriad of basic and applied research in biology, materials science, physics, environmental and geochemistry, medicine, and many other fields. They are the most prolific and reliable sources of neutrons we have, and are NOT an obsolete technology. Security is obviously important at reactors. But if an irrational, fear-inspired regulatory structure makes reactors an impossibility, we will lose the technology and the neutrons and start crawling back into the dark cave.
And that's part of what this report is really about -- shutting down legitimate scientific research in the pursuit of a narrow-minded agenda.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…