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NNadir's Journal
NNadir's Journal
May 19, 2024

Pipeline from a Nuclear Plant Expected to Cut Gas Use for Heating, Brno, Czech Republic.

Dukovany to Brno hot water heating supply pipeline takes step forward


Czech nuclear power operator ČEZ and municipal heating company Teplárny Brno have signed agreements relating to a 42-kilometre pipeline from the Dukovany nuclear power plant that aims to benefit 250,000 people in the city of Brno.

Some excerpts:

The strategic contracts signed cover the removal of heat from the Dukovany units to the boundary of the power plant, ČEZ said, as well as agreement on future contracts which are a condition for steps towards the construction of the heating pipe, with work scheduled to begin in 2027 and due to take about four years.

The companies say that the cogeneration production of heat will help Brno, the Czech Republic's second largest city, to cut its use of gas - possibly covering 50% of its heating needs. The pipeline is being designed to avoid built-up areas and will include tunnelled sections, including one stretch of 1100 metres in the Bobrava Nature Park.

The projected cost of the scheme is CZK19 billion (USD811 million) with part of it to be met by possible European Union subsidies as well as possible financing via commercial institutions.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said: "The construction of the heat pipe is an important step towards energy self-sufficiency and independence for Brno. If we have been saying for a long time that the basic energy source of the Czech Republic should be nuclear energy in the future, then this project fully meets the requirements and criteria. We will use the heat from the nuclear power plant, we will get rid of dependence on other fuels and we will ensure safe supply of heat to households and institutions..."

The world seems to be waking up to the utility of nuclear heat beyond mere electricity production. The excess cooling should also raise the Carnot thermal efficiency of the nuclear plants.
May 19, 2024

Looking at Palisades, Constellation Energy Considers Restart of Three Mile Island.

With the encouragement of Gretchen Whitmer and President Biden, the shut Palisades Nuclear Plant will be restarted in Michigan.

This has led to consideration of reopening the shut Three Mile Island Reactor, the second reactor, obviously not the one that melted.

Life extensions vital to underpin future expansion: Constellation


Expanding capacity with uprates and new build at existing nuclear plant sites are part of Constellation Energy's plans to meet growing needs for clean energy in the USA - even a restart of Three Mile Island is not ruled out - but extending the operating lives of existing nuclear plants will be vital, CEO Joe Dominguez has told investors.

Some excerpts:

Constellation lays claim to be the USA's largest producer carbon-free energy, with a fleet of nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar generation facilities that powers more than 16 million homes and businesses and provides 10% of all clean power on the US grid.

The data economy and Constellation's nuclear generating capacity "go together like peanut butter and jelly", Dominguez said in the company's Q1 results call on 9 May. Constellation is having "conversations" with multiple "large, well-known companies" about meeting their future energy needs, although such "large and complicated transactions" will take time to finalise...

... The company intends to do this in three ways: extending the operating lives of its existing sites through licence extensions; increasing output through uprates; and building new capacity. The first of these measures - continuing to run existing plants through licence extensions - "is quite simply the most important thing we can do for America's clean energy future", he said.

The company is already adding megawatts through uprates at current plants, he said, citing already announced plans for uprates at the Byron and Braidwood plants that will add some 160 MWe over the next few years, while it believes that uprate opportunities at other plants "will add up to 1000 megawatts or perhaps more of clean firm power to the grid"...

...Questioned on whether Constellation was considering restarting Three Mile Island unit 1, which was shut down for economic reasons in 2019 after more than 45 years of generation, Dominguez said that "seeing what happened with Palisades" - a shut-down plant in Michigan which Holtec is planning to repower, with federal government support - was "brilliant".

"We're not unaware that that opportunity exists for us … we're doing a good bit of thinking about a number of different opportunities, and that would probably be certainly one of those that we would think about."

I added the bold.

I have several objections to the text, one of which is defining wind and solar, both of which are dependent on access to dangerous fossil fuels, as "clean energy." They are no such thing. However this belief, that solar and wind are "clean and green" is a culturally universal public myth and businesses do not do well confronting broadly held public mythology.

The use of units of power, Megawatts, to describe energy, is also a cultural universal, but it is uninstructive. There is a huge difference between a nuclear Megawatt, since nuclear plants are reliable and operate typically at capacity utilization of better than 90%, and a solar Megawatt, which typically operate with a capacity utilization of less than 30%, often close to 20%, similar to wind. Thus a nuclear "Megawatt" is at least three times more valuable than a solar or wind "Megawatt" and does not depend on access to dangerous fossil fuels.

Enjoy the rest of Sunday.
May 19, 2024

So I went ahead and did it, the Ozempic thing.

I was at a scientific conference this week during which some data was presented. It looked good to me.

I certainly qualify for it, high A1c, glucose, and I'm pretty fat and am not finding the time to exercise.

I'll see how it goes, whether my pancreas or thyroid explode; for now the injection site is a little tender; that's all.

May 18, 2024

A Norwegian Company Plans Off Grid Nuclear Reactors for Thermal Processing Missions.

Norsk Kjernekraft focuses on off-grid SMR projects


Under a new business plan, Norwegian nuclear project developer Norsk Kjernekraft says it plans to construct off-grid small modular reactors in industrial areas where both reliable power and access to heat are needed.


The company noted that estimates of future energy demand in Norway vary from 50 TWh to 233 TWh. However, it says the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) makes existing forecasts about power requirements invalid. "Basically, the need for data processing and data storage, unlike everything else, is unlimited. Artificial intelligence accelerates this need exponentially ... in reality, this means that there is no longer a limitation in power demand."

Norsk Kjernekraft said that when hydropower was developed in Norway, industry was established where the hydropower plants were. However, with small modular reactors (SMRs), power production can now take place where the industry is located. "Because nuclear power, like hydropower, lasts for 100 years (with two upgrades after 60 and 80 years respectively), it gives the opportunity to recreate what hydropower has done for Norway. After the power plants have been paid off, they supply cheap electricity for a further 70-80 years - as hydropower has done."

In addition to generating electricity, nuclear power produces a lot of heat. High-temperature steam can be used for heat-intensive industries, such as for the production of steel and aluminium. It can also be also for carbon capture, as well as the production of hydrogen, ammonia and e-fuels. The residual heat can be used for district heating. According to Norsk Kjernekraft, all this reduces the need for electricity, and thereby also the need for grid development...

...By building the SMR power plant off-grid and in connection with heat-intensive industry, Norsk Kjernekraft says this ensures good project economics, while municipalities can build industry and jobs and ensure economic growth for future generations. Renewable power production can then be channeled towards other needs in Norway...

Regrettably the article makes reference to the use of the electricity side product to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, which is wasteful and rather dirty, but the thermal utilization scheme comes under the general rubric of "process intensification" about which I've written here many times. Support for data centers is a good idea however, as is the production of steel and aluminum, both of which are carbon intensive industries.
May 16, 2024

The Effect of Heat Stress on Damage to Internal Organs, Especially Among the Elderly.

Reference to this article came in on one of my news feeds:

Roy, S., Saha, P., Bose, D. et al. Periodic heat waves-induced neuronal etiology in the elderly is mediated by gut-liver-brain axis: a transcriptome profiling approach. Sci Rep 14, 10555 (2024).

The full article, which is somewhat technical, is open to the public and free to access.

Nonetheless, some excerpts:

In a dynamically changing global landscape, the imminent threat of climate change is evident in rising temperatures, raising concerns about intermittent heat waves leading to acute and chronic heat stress, where the aging population is especially vulnerable1. Heat stress due to the deployment of troops in the Southwest Asian region and ..during combat training in arid regions also have a deleterious effect on the health of aging Veterans. The Southwest Asia regional climate is hot and arid, which exposes military personnel to intense heat and sunlight during the day, posing long-term health consequences for veterans2. Heat stress, a heat-related illness, occurs when the body's cooling mechanisms fail, leading to a rapid increase in the body temperature3 and cause pathophysiological changes and fatalities, with excess mortality linked to summertime temperatures surpassing long-term averages and heat extremes due to heatwaves4. Recent CDC data reports over three thousand deaths in about two years solely due to heat exposure, indicating a gradual increase in heat stress-related deaths with age, peaking among those aged fifty-five to sixty-four5. Various factors, including housing conditions, limited mobility, financial constraints, psychological issues, ignorance, and comorbid conditions, heighten the elderly's susceptibility to heat stress6...

... Alarming predictions estimate over a ninety percent increase in heat stress-associated deaths in New York by 2050 and up to a seven-fold increase in California by 20907,8.

Heat stress intricately affects vital organ systems, particularly the cerebral and hepatic domains9. In the neurophysiological landscape, heat stress induces cellular perturbations, leading to cerebral edema10. Experimental animal models showed acute heat stress activating astrocytic processes, causing neuronal damage in the cerebral cortex11. Simultaneously, the neuroinflammatory environment, marked by microglial activation, pro-inflammatory cytokine release, and blood–brain barrier (BBB) disruption, contributes to cognitive decline, compromises adult neurogenesis, and age-related pathologies, significantly impacting the geriatric population12,13. The liver, an indispensable organ of metabolic orchestration, maintains pivotal processes encompassing ammonia purification, biosynthesis of vitamins and minerals, energy homeostasis, and the regulation of fundamental physiological equilibrium14. Intriguingly, the liver emerges as a remarkably sensitive organ to the toxic effects of heat stress. Acute thermal stress instigates metabolic perturbations in the liver via oxidative stress15. In a chronic heat stress milieu, the liver succumbs to apoptosis triggered by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, concomitant impairment in ammonium detoxification, elevation of plasma-ammonia levels, and aggravated hepatic pathologies16. Additionally, heat stress was known to promote dysfunction in hepatic autophagy, thereby unveiling its multifaceted capacity to inflict hepatic damage17. To date, no studies have investigated the integrative effects of heat stress on the liver and brain axis beyond specific organ-level pathologies and molecular intricacies. Therefore, this study aimed to uncover the molecular interplays of the liver-brain connection in heat stress-related pathologies together with individual organ-specific pathological changes using transcriptome approaches...

None of this, of course, is nearly as important of the worry, the discussion for which much coal and natural gas has been combusted to power computers for internet access, that someday, at some point, someone might actually die from radiation exposure at the big bogeyman at Fukushima, but there are actually a few people, myself included, who actually think that the risk of climate change far outweighs the risks associated with the big bogeyman at Fukushima, and, in fact, any and all of the roughly 450 nuclear reactors around the world combined in the business of saving human lives.

May 16, 2024

President Biden Bans the Import of Russian Uranium.

US President signs uranium import prohibition


The act prohibiting the importation into the USA of unirradiated, low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian entity has been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Some excerpts from the full, but short article which is free to read:

The president signed HR 1042, the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, on 13 May - two weeks after the bill was passed unanimously by the US Senate. The legislation bans the import of Russian-produced unirradiated LEU as well as the import of unirradiated LEU that has been swapped for banned uranium.

The prohibition on imports of LEU comes into effect 90 days after the date of the enactment of the bill, and will last until the end of 2040. Waivers may be granted to allow the import of limited amounts of LEU, under certain circumstances, until 1 January 2028...

... "This new law re-establishes America's leadership in the nuclear sector. It will help secure our energy sector for generations to come. And - building off the unprecedented USD2.72 billion in federal funding that Congress recently appropriated at the President's request - it will jumpstart new enrichment capacity in the United States and send a clear message to industry that we are committed to long-term growth in our nuclear sector."

He added that the law also delivers on multilateral goals, including last year's announcement by the USA with Canada, France, Japan and the UK of plans to collectively invest USD4.2 billion to expand their enrichment and conversion capacity. "I am proud to say that with these funds from Congress, we have well-exceeded that pledge and are working with industry to realise this ambition," he added....

I would personally like to move past uranium enrichment in the fuel cycle, this by the use of plutonium available from used nuclear fuels, utilization of the DUPIC cycle in CANDU type reactors, or better yet, increasing plutonium inventories by incorporating thorium into plutonium enhanced Dupic type reactors.

Under these conditions, the uranium already mined (and the thorium dumped as a side product of the lanthanide mines dug for wind turbines, electric cars, and other lanthanide dependent devices) might power all of humanities energy needs for centuries.

NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) found in natural waters, mainly seawater but notably groundwater and fracking water, should make, ultimately, uranium become an inexhaustible resource.
May 13, 2024

You joined the DOE from academia. What caused you to accept the job?

Viewpoint: Proud of progress on new nuclear, but pace needs to increase


Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff reflects in this Q&A on the highlights of her three years leading the US Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy and the momentum behind expanding nuclear energy capacity. This article was first published by the Office of Nuclear Energy on 3 May.


What have been the high points from your time at the Department of Energy?

It's been an absolute honour. It has been a real thrill to see the bipartisan support for nuclear energy. I think my confirmation was a real signal that that was the case, even starting out.

The existing nuclear fleet: We want to keep existing reactors running, and I’ve seen Diablo Canyon stay open when it was potentially destined to close. Palisades Nuclear Power Plant has a hope of a future even though it has shut down, and they're restarting that plant very soon. With Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 coming online, it takes us from the 92 reactors or so we were at when I started, up to 93, 94. With Palisades it’ll be 95. In a different world, we could have been walking backwards instead and allowing those reactors to shut down...

...You joined the DOE from academia. What caused you to accept the job?

To be honest, it was a complete surprise that I was even being considered. It never occurred to me to work in the government. Tarak Shah, the secretary’s chief of staff at the time, said to me, "We’re in a war with the climate crisis, and we need you on the front lines". And I can't say no to that. This is a very motivational value for me that, you know, it is worth doing some public service to save the world. And we're doing nothing less. And so he got me right in the heart with that one, and I was powerless against it...

... How does it feel when you look back at the progress we've made over the past few years? Do you feel like we've made huge strides, or there's still so much left to be done?

Can I say both? I think both are true. Yes, we have made huge strides. We are now walking forward - we should be running forward, with regard to new deployments of nuclear energy. But, you know, we could be walking backwards. That shift in the direction is so important, and we're in a place where that momentum, I think, is going to stick with us. But I think there's no question in the scientific world that we're not moving fast enough to decarbonise. And so while we're moving very fast and I'm so proud of us for moving as fast as we are, we've got to move so much faster, especially when we think about the tripling of nuclear energy goal. Building 200 new gigawatts of nuclear power between now and 2050 is going to be hard, but it'll have a lot of benefits.

The questions were bolded in the original; I added all additional bold and the italics. The short full interview is available at the link.

We, at least any of us thinking seriously about climate change, should thank Dr. Huff for her service to humanity.

May 13, 2024

Post-irradiation testing of high-burnup fuel under way at ORNL

From the annals of materials science:

Post-irradiation testing of high-burnup fuel under way at ORNL


High burnup fuel rods manufactured by GE Vernova's Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) are being examined at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) after spending six years in a commercial nuclear power reactor.


The rods, manufactured at GNF's fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, with support from the Department of Energy's Accident Tolerant Fuel programme, were shipped to the lab after completing three full cycles of operation at a US nuclear power plant. ORNL will conduct post-irradiation experiments over the next several years to verify safety and performance. Results from the experiments will be used to support the commercial deployment of such fuels.

Higher burnup fuel is designed to remain in the reactor core for longer periods of time before it is removed for long-term storage, leading to fewer refuelling outages, increased power output for better economics, and less used fuel over the lifetime of the reactor...

To me, the ultimate in high burn up fuels would be with CANDU type reactors, seeded with plutonium, depleted uranium, and thorium. These types of fuels would, upon recycling, reduce or eliminate the need for enrichment plants, have huge anti-proliferation value, and accelerate the availability of fissionable nuclei if we are to have any chance of addressing a serious attack on climate change.

May 8, 2024

The Philosophy Building.

It seems about right; it should give plenty of room for all undergraduates and graduate students and the faculty.
May 7, 2024

Hunger on campus: why US PhD students are fighting over food

From my Nature news feed:

Hunger on campus: why US PhD students are fighting over food


Graduate students are relying on donated and discounted food in the struggle to make ends meet.

Some excerpts:

Jen Cruz’s life as a PhD student is a world away from her childhood. Although not a member of the tribe, she grew up on Yakama Indian reservation land in Wapato, Washington.

Cruz, a first-generation university student, remembers how families, including hers, would often work for local farmers or fishers in exchange for food to supplement the food stamps and free school lunches that most people on the reservation relied on to get by...

Jen Cruz’s life as a PhD student is a world away from her childhood. Although not a member of the tribe, she grew up on Yakama Indian reservation land in Wapato, Washington.

Cruz, a first-generation university student, remembers how families, including hers, would often work for local farmers or fishers in exchange for food to supplement the food stamps and free school lunches that most people on the reservation relied on to get by...

...A study published in February revealed that food insecurity at Harvard is not just anecdotal (N. M. Hammad and C. W. Leung JAMA Netw. Open 7, e2356894; 2024). Commissioned by the dean’s office at Harvard’s School of Public Health, the survey found that 17% of the 1,287 graduate students who responded and 13% of the 458 postdoctoral responders had experienced food insecurity — figures that were on a par with or exceeded those for the general US population (13%)....

I was disappointed when my son failed to follow up on his interview at MIT, and when he turned down Berkeley's offer to fly him out for an interview, but at the end of the day, he made the right choice, a well funded advisor who provided a generous stipend in a livable city. (His Master's advisor told him not to pick the institution, but rather the advisor; good advice.)

Living either in the Cambridge area or the Bay area would have been very difficult; where he is he has a nice apartment all to himself, eats well and lives well while focusing on his work.

This, I find, is unsurprising.

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