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Friday Follow-Ups

mpower_in_containment On Babcock and Wilcox’s announcement of new, smaller nuclear reactors:

Our friends at the Heritage Foundation like what they see:

One of the most interesting things about B&W’s entrance into the reactor market is that unlike most other designers, they have the industrial infrastructure to start building these things right now. And what’s more, this is a company that builds reactors today, multiple reactors each year, that the U.S. government uses for national security purposes. No one else has that on their resume.

True enough, though not necessarily determinative in any significant sense. Let’s call it a point in their favor.

The exciting thing about nuclear power is not what it gives us today, but what its potential is for the future.

Also true. This being Heritage, let’s let them have their moment:

It is a perfect example of why government can’t pick winners and losers among energy sources. Government subsidization of some technologies inevitably crowds out investment and innovation for others.

Or it spurs investment and innovation, depending. But Heritage will be Heritage.

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On the Republican’s American Energy Plan:

The U.K. newspaper the Guardian, much like Heritage, can be relied upon for certain go-to attitudes. For example:

America's nuclear industry and its supporters in Congress have moved to hijack Barack Obama's agenda for greening the economy by producing a rival plan to build 100 new reactors in 20 years, and staking a claim for the money to come from a proposed clean energy development bank.

Really? Hijack? Nuclear’s been puttering around the greens for over 50 years. Maybe it shouldn’t be put in a position where it can be described as hijacking an agenda? Especially since it’s so responsive to that agenda.

Ellen Vancko, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: "The nuclear industry would like to be able to finance the next generation of nuclear reactors using the faith and credit of the US taxpayer to underwrite the expansion. They don't want to be responsible for any risk of financing these plants and neither do their lenders."

If the UCS thinks every other segment of the energy business doesn’t have much the same in mind, we’ve got a windmill we’d like to sell it – cheap. And in defense of every energy industry, including nuclear, this is a public-private partnership; government does have some ideas on how it wants energy deployed. No industry stands utterly alone. (You could say the Guardian, UCS and Heritage approach the role  of government in the energy sector in surprisingly similar ways.)

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And on our mention of Microsoft’s new Bing search engine, we thought we’d be remiss not to point you to Wolfram Alpha, described as a computational knowledge engine. It’s doesn’t so much provide you  with links to other sites as pull together a ton of information about your search term, derived from other sites. For, um, nuclear scientists and engineers, there’s a lot of potential here. Here’s a couple of examples, from a rank amateur:

Uranium 235

stopping power air, 0.5MeV electron

Consider playing with Alpha as your Friday Fun project. You can even download your results as a pdf or a Mathematica notebook. (You can get a free notebook viewer from Wolfram’s site. It’s worth the download - lots of great content for it apart from Alpha.)

The containment chamber of the Babcock & Wilcox reactor.

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