Tag Archives: reading

Weekend reading

Activity is not very high here lately so I though I would provide you all with some nice weekend reading material.

First is the article "Energy as the ultimate raw material" by the nuclear energy pioneer Alvin Weinberg. Weinberg used to think of the big picture and this article showcases that. He outlines a few approaches to a asymptotic state of civilization, a state where humanity is using resources at a rate that is practically infinitely sustainable. In such a state humanity uses a lot of energy in order to produce the necessary raw materials from common rock, seawater etc.The article is from 1959 but well worth reading even today.

The second article is a blog post from Will Davis over at Atomic Power Review, "Vogtle COL approval vote indicates perspective on "nuclear renaissance". I selected it because in it Will describes some the various reactors that where developed during the first decades of nuclear energy. In my opinion it speaks volumes of how restricted the view of nuclear energy has become, nuclear power today is pretty much identical to light water reactors, but that is just a fluke of history and some day tinkering with other designs will charge on at full speed again.

As the third article I give you Gismags "Feature: Small modular nuclear reactors - the future of energy?". Aside from a few glaring technical errors or statements that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it gives a good overview of the developments going on with small modular reactors.

I also end the post with a small section from Freeman Dysons book "Disturbing the universe". A fantastic book by a fantastic scientist! Any spelling errors are mine since I wrote out the paragraphs below.

The fundamental problem of the nuclear power industry is not reactor safety, not waste disposal, not the dangers of nuclear proliferation, real though all these problems are. The fundamental problem of the industry is that nobody any longer has any fun building reactors. It is inconceivable under present conditions that a group of enthusiast could assemble in a schoolhouse and design, build, test, license and sell a reactor within three years. Sometime between 1960 and 1970, the fun went out of the business.

The adventurers, the experimenters, the inventors, were driven out, and the accountants and managers took control. Not only in the private industry but also in the government laboratories, at Los Alamos, Livermore, Oak Ridge and Argonne, the groups of bright young people who used to build and invent and experiment with a great variety of reactors where disbanded. The accountants and managers decided that it was not cost effective to let bright people play with weird reactors. So the weird reactors disappeared and with them the chance of any radical improvement beyond our existing systems.

We are left with a very small number of reactor types in operation, each of them frozen into a huge bureaucratic organization that makes any substantial change impossible, each of them in various ways technically unsatisfactory, each of them less safe than many possible alternative designs which have been discarded. Nobody builds reactors for fun anymore. The spirit of the little red schoolhouse is dead. That, in my opinion, is what went wrong with nuclear power.

- Freeman Dyson