Friday, January 28, 2011

Ready for Anything

Fusion Georgia Power opened what it calls a joint information center near but not at its Plant Vogtle site:

The two-building complex adjacent to Georgia Power Co.'s offices in Waynesboro would serve as a media and information center if a serious accident or emergency were to occur at the power plant, situated 20 miles away on the banks of the Savannah River.

Planning for a problem and having a problem are two different things and Georgia Power has set things up so that any problem that might develop can be communicated quickly and efficiently.

Joint information centers are well understood in the emergency planning field. Here’s a good description from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico:

In the unlikely event of an emergency, the WIPP Joint Information Center (JIC) serves as a central control point to coordinate multi-agency efforts to issue timely and accurate information to the public, news media and project employees.

What’s interesting about Georgia Power’s effort is that it is exceptionally well thought out. They’ve gone a fair distance to make the center responsive for the people who will use it:

In addition to an auditorium and briefing room, the center includes a newsroom with desks and other facilities for reporters; and offices for local emergency officials, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other agencies that would be involved in such an emergency.

This is a very good idea, with the only possible downside being that Georgia Power never finds much use for it. The story at the Augusta Chronicle doesn’t mention it, but perhaps the center could be used for other public outreach efforts.

I have to say I appreciated writer Rob Pavey for this paragraph:

Plant Vogtle has an excellent safety record in Burke County and is expected to maintain that record as the first commercial reactors to be built in the U.S. in 30 years are constructed alongside the existing ones, said Jim Miller, Southern Nuclear's chairman and CEO.

True – well, the part that can be known, the plant’s safety record – but especially wise for people might think that such thorough planning portends a problem. Actually, just the opposite is true – the new center forestalls problems.



Italian physicists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi have invented a cold fusion reactor which fits on a table and requires no unprocurable components. According to the authors, such a device installed at a factory has been warming up water day and night over the last two years, producing 12,400 watts of heat with an input of just 400 watts.

Anyone who remembers the Martin Fleischmann/Stanley Pons cold fusion story from 1989 – no one could reproduce their results and claims of a nuclear reaction with byproducts did not prove out - will feel that it’s deja vu all over again.

Especially since, as always, there is no plausible way to bring about fusion at this scale. Rossi and Focardi haven’t shared how they went about doing it – through a fusion of hydrogen and nickel - and they self-published their findings on the internet after being rejected by scientific journals. These are other very severe warning signs:

Based on this lack of even a theoretical basis for the device’s function, a patent application was rejected. Their credibility isn’t helped by the fact that Rossi apparently has something of a rap sheet, which allegedly includes illegally importing gold and tax fraud.

And these:

Nonetheless the reactor showed off by Focardi and Rossi is beyond the research stage they say, and reports quote the scientists saying they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.

So color me unconvinced. The premise of cold fusion is that it will produce far more energy than it consumes, which will allow for very cheap electricity generation. If it were possible, it would come close to an energy panacea – and that’s the biggest reason to be dubious of claims for it. It’s like alchemy, perpetual motion or having bigfoot in your basement freezer.

I’ve run into this story at several sites and most, though not all, writers have taken a dim view of it. In any event, handle this one with tongs.

The blue box is the purported cold fusion device.


Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: ". . . no one could reproduce their results . . ."

That is incorrect. Fleischmann and Pons were replicated thousands of times in hundreds of major laboratories.

I have a collection of 1,200 peer-reviewed journal papers on cold fusion, copied from the library at Los Alamos, and 2,500 others from various sources. I suggest you review this literature before commenting on this research. See:

Anonymous said...

The commenter makes a good point: the results are easy to reproduce. What he fails to mention is that the minicsule heat evolved are from chemical reactions on the surface of the electrodes, not nuclear reactions. LENR have never been observed, and never will.

Jed Rothwell said...

Someone wrote: "What he fails to mention is that the minicsule heat evolved are from chemical reactions on the surface of the electrodes . . ."

The heat is sometimes small, but in many cases it has ranged from 20 to 100 W, which is not miniscule. It cannot be caused by electrochemical reactions because it continues long after power is turned off, sometimes for hours or days. The effect is also observed with other loading methods, such as with an ion beam or gas loading, so it is not a function of electrochemistry.

It cannot be a chemical reaction because there is no chemical fuel in the cell, and many cells have produced 50 to 300 MJ from a few grams of material, which is many orders of magnitude larger than any possible chemical reaction with the same mass of reactants.

Joffan said...

I believe the stuff wrapped in foil is actually the apparatus under test. From other reports (nextbigfuture) there is also a sealed wooden control box, which has a monitored power lead and 5 control leads to the foil-wrapped reactor. I've no idea what the blue box is.

I am sceptical of this; it really implies a mechanism for nuclear interaction that I'd expect to have implications for stellar lifecycles, which are not observed.

Jed Rothwell said...

You wrote: "I believe the stuff wrapped in foil is actually the apparatus under test."

Correct. That is insulation.

"From other reports (nextbigfuture) there is also a sealed wooden control box, which has a monitored power lead and 5 control leads to the foil-wrapped reactor."

Right. The power meter is installed between the outlet and the box. See Prof. Levi's report:

"I've no idea what the blue box is."

That is university equipment. It is an old data collection box connected to the thermocouples.