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Old 11-12-2018, 03:30 AM   #21
Polydamas
 
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
Another option is wind power. It's not reliable, so you'd use it to charge batteries on a small scale and to run industries that can use power when it's available and don't need a constant supply (making things in batches, etc.). Supplement it with hydroelectric power to run the stuff that needs a constant supply, and coal/wood if that's not enough.
Yeah, I think that building a nuclear plant after the end should be rule of cool ... trying to make it plausible is just a distraction.

If you have a big, high-tech society for the wasteland (say a few million people) there are too many other ways to generate electricity which are easier: hydro, wind, biomass, coal from small deposits or the giant heaps left from the Golden Age ... a much smaller, poorer population in the Wasteland does not need nearly as much energy as we do.
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Old 11-12-2018, 04:06 AM   #22
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

IIRC pressurised water reactors (such as found in nuclear subs) are comparatively "safe".

The reactor is moderated using water. Without liquid water the neutrons are not thermalised and the core cools. As the reactor heats, steam is produced the amount of moderator decreases stabilising the reaction. The amount of steam produced is controlled by the pressure, the higher the pressure, the higher the temperature before steam is formed. As long as you don;t allow this to get too high you wont get meltdown.

Thus if the reactor gets too hot, it will tend to slow down. If the reactor vessel leaks or ruptures then it will slow down.

Now you still have radioactive water and other containment to deal with. You still need to source your radio actives, but you could in theory re-purpose the plant from a nuclear sub and short-cut the process.

I wouldn't class any society capable of manufacturing a nuclear power plant as in any way post apocalyptic (but they they get it wrong they could very well be pre-apocalyptic).

The question, as many other posters have stated, is why would you manufacture a nuclear plant when there are plenty of other far more practical energy sources available.

If you have the resources to build a nuclear plant then you probably have enough resources such that you don't need to build a nuclear plant.
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Old 11-12-2018, 07:46 AM   #23
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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In This thread we discuss possible means of generating power after the end via nuclear energy, as well as how it would look, and the feasibility/resource requirements of such an endeavor.
The Reed Research Reactor (RRR) is a 250 kW pool type reactor operated by less than 50 people with less than 3 years training and experience, because it's the nuclear reactor at Reed College in Oregon run by undergraduates. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_Research_Reactor

The RRR implies that the minimum size for an AtE community with access to nuclear power is about 2500 - 5000 people, with each household getting enough power to run a couple of incandescent lightbulbs.

It looks like you could scale up the power without significantly increasing the staff, because Texas A&M's reactor is a 1 MW design with a staff of 30: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_...Science_Center

There are, or have been, a lot of research reactors in the US. It looks like they don't provide a lot of power but also don't require a lot of staff. A medium sized community could easily be built around one - a pair of 75W incandescent lightbults per household isn't much by 21st century standards but it would make for a very rich community post-AtE. Fueling the reactor could be a tricky problem, requiring dedicated and technologically sophisticated scavengers who can recover fuel rods from other, larger, reactors.
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Old 11-12-2018, 09:43 AM   #24
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

Nuclear power is hard to do. But the hardest part is the mining and refining of the fuel. If you already have a stack of fuel, its not technically hard to use. You will eventually have a meltdown, and you will probably have a few other accidents, but the hardest part of nuclear plants is getting the fuel and handling it safely.
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Old 11-12-2018, 10:13 AM   #25
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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Originally Posted by mlangsdorf View Post
The RRR implies that the minimum size for an AtE community with access to nuclear power is about 2500 - 5000 people, with each household getting enough power to run a couple of incandescent lightbulbs.
The RRR does not refine its own fuel. I'm not sure how long a fuel rod lasts, but it's not a long time (GURPS Vehicles implies 2 years; I have no reason to doubt that number).
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:23 AM   #26
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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The RRR does not refine its own fuel. I'm not sure how long a fuel rod lasts, but it's not a long time (GURPS Vehicles implies 2 years; I have no reason to doubt that number).
A cursory glance at the wikipedia page mentions that the RRR was originally intended to use highly enriched uranium fuel rods becouse they last significantly longer, but do to anti proliferation treaties they're limited to low enrichment rods of 19.75%
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:27 AM   #27
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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The RRR does not refine its own fuel. I'm not sure how long a fuel rod lasts, but it's not a long time (GURPS Vehicles implies 2 years; I have no reason to doubt that number).
It uses low enriched uranium zirconium hydride as a fuel. Zirconium hydride looks like a relatively safe material to create (expose zirconium to hydrogen gas at medium-high temperatures) but I'm not a chemical engineer. Making uranium hydride looks about as safe as anything you can do with uranium - a toxic, pyrophoric, radioactive heavy metal is never safe - but mixing hydrogen gas with uranium at temperatures you can achieve with a household oven doesn't seem too complicated.

Getting a feedstock of enriched uranium does seem to be a problem. Uranium hexafluoride adds corrosion to uranium's delightful properties but it seems to be the only choice for gaseous centrifuging. I'm not sure how large your centrifuging operation needs to be - Oak Ridge's K-25 was around 80K people and used several power plants, but it also produced 125 lbs of 80% enriched uranium in about a year, and that's overkill for a small research reactor's needs.

It looks like a TRIGA II configuration has about 90 fuel rods, each containing ~300 grams of actual fuel. If that's good for 2 years, you need to come up 27 kg of 15% low enriched uranium every two years. 1/5th of as much stuff 1/2 as frequently at 1/5th the enrichment using centrifuging processes that require 1/20th the energy would imply you need about 1/1000th of a K-25 plant but that's a lot of questionable assumptions.

In the context of an AtE game, a community built around a research nuclear reactor would have reason to aggressively scavenge spent fuel rods and nuclear fuel refinement equipment. It would be an excellent backstory for a well-funded PC team: you've got a vehicle and access to the wealth of the community, but they need you to drive across the Wasteland, find old nuclear waste sites, and recover the hottest and nastiest fuel rods you can find. On the way out to a site, you're loaded with trade goods and a magnet for bandits and raiders; on the way back, you've got a cargo of hot radioactives and might need to stop somewhere to scrounge fuel or maintenance parts for your vehicle.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:33 AM   #28
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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In the context of an AtE game, a community built around a research nuclear reactor would have reason to aggressively scavenge spent fuel rods and nuclear fuel refinement equipment. It would be an excellent backstory for a well-funded PC team: you've got a vehicle and access to the wealth of the community, but they need you to drive across the Wasteland, find old nuclear waste sites, and recover the hottest and nastiest fuel rods you can find. On the way out to a site, you're loaded with trade goods and a magnet for bandits and raiders; on the way back, you've got a cargo of hot radioactives and might need to stop somewhere to scrounge fuel or maintenance parts for your vehicle.

Ok, that's the most sensible adventuring context for AtE I've ever come across. Society hasn't completely collapsed, the players have a firm goal that makes them encounter new places, it actually makes sense for bandits to attack them, and they're actively seeking out nuclear hot spots.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:44 AM   #29
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

It also excuses any eccentricities of the PCs: whatever their flaws, they're the ones volunteering to go dig spent fuel rods out of fallout contaminated spent storage sites. The community has to put with their issues because they're the only mostly competent option.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:55 AM   #30
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Default Re: DIY Nuclear Reactors After the End

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A sub-critical mass can still undergo fission much faster than the natural half-life of the isotope, though.

Obviously, yes, sourcing the fuel for that is unlikely to be feasible in ATE contexts unless you're burning through a pre-fall stockpile of refined material.
I'd say that is a key part of the apocalypse genere. If you can make fuel, bullets, medicine, fuel... your world might suck, but it's hardly ending.

A setting where the dying slaves are trying to husband the last of the energy out of cooling, yet still deadly, fuel rods? Sounds pretty apocalyptic to me.
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