1. SecretIdentity-NotStevePerkins says:

    UPDATE: Apparently, what happened in the Hatch is that Desmond and Locke entered the wrong numbers.

  2. modcon says:

    Like we can believe something posted by some one who won’t post under their real name.

  3. Doug Deal says:


    Thats the thing about American reactors, at least, they are designed so that glitches cause the reactions to stop. If they lose coolant, containment, overheat, etc, the reactor stops working.

    Old Timey Russian reactors, on the other hand (like the one used at a little known Ukranian city near Kiev) had no such precautions installed.

  4. Doug Deal says:


    Remember, you can’t put too much water in a nuclear reactor.

    Not to nitpick, but Chernobyl wasn’t a sodium reactor, it was a graphite moderated, boiling light water cooled reactor.

    The reason why this is dangerous is two-fold. First of all, graphite becomes a bomb when it is exposed to intense vaporizing heat and oxygen.

    The second reason is that the purpose of a moderator is to slow down neutrons. Only slow neutrons (thermal neutrons) allow the chain reaction to proceed. Fast neutrons are worthless.

    Light water absorbs neutrons. So, as the reaction goes out of control, more steam bubbles are formed, causing voids that reduce the number of neutrons being absorbed, increase the reaction intensity as the reaction gets hotter (thus causing a positive feedback).

    Eventually, if it gets too hot and the pressure too intense the containment fails, the graphite vaporizes and the whole thing explodes in a super large conventional dirty bomb.

    US reactors (well the type used at Three Mile Island) on the other hand, use normal water at extremely high pressure as a moderator and coolant. The higher pressure prevents vaporization. But, since the water is also what is slowing the neutrons down, if this coolant vaporized (such as a breach in the coolant circulation loop, there is no moderator to slow the neutrons down and the reaction stops. Thus the reaction has a built in negative feedback.

    Future reactor designs will use neither of these methods, and many of them will enable the use of off the shelf natural occurring Uranium and Thorium, which will push the viability of nuclear power from 100’s to millions or billions of years.

  5. Gag Halfrunt says:

    Doug Deal is correct when he writes “fast neutrons are worthless.” Just look at Gingrich.

  6. MSBassSinger says:

    Doug Deal is a bit off on what he says. I went through the Navy’s Nuclear Power School, and certified on the USS Nimitz. I’ve spent a lot of time operating nuclear reactor plants, and once you stand before a 6 hour oral board with nothing but chalk and an eraser and what you have memorized, you don’t easily forget it.

    Water doesn’t absorb neutrons. U235 atoms will fission with slow neutrons. Fast neutrons simply get re-emited. Water slows down fast neutrons so that they can split U235 atoms. That is why when there is a massive coolant leak such that the core may become uncovered, there are high capacity pumps to flood the reactor containment compartment. When the hafnium rods are inserted into the ceramic-based fuel cells, they absorb neutrons so as to stop fisson.

    American nuclear power plants have several levels of containment that the Soviet reactor didn’t have. Further, a nuclear reactor cannot have a nuclear explosion. It is a physical impossibility. It can have a steam explosion if unpressurized water is superheated, but the containment vessel can handle that. It can also handle a direct hit by a 747.

    In fact, there is more radiation to be had outside a coal fired power plant than a nuclear power plant. Coal has a trace amount of radioactive carbon (C14, usually absorbed from the environment the coal came from) that generates more measurable radiation than you can detect outside a nuclear power plant.

    Bottom line is that nuclear power plants, built and operated according to US standards, is as safe as any other power source. In fact, Three Mile Island had zero deaths or injuries with anyone, in the plant or without. Had it not been for the bad timing of Jane Fonda’s totally fictional “China Syndrome”, the incident would have long faded from public memory.

    Back in 1961, there was a real nuclear plant accident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1). The NRTS where SL-1 was located was where I trained (differnt site in NRTS). I think the film that the military made of the disaster and recovery (and showed us in Nuclear Power School) is now declassified. You can actually see the site from the public highway that cuts through the NRTS. Contrary to the Wikipedia article, the cause was a stuck rod. The operator, instead of following the rules, tried to jerk it loose. Instead, he jerked so high that it caused a steam explosion and skewered him to the ceiling. A 2nd operator had just entered the reactor room door, and was killed by the blast. A 3rd operator appeared to have died slowly, and was dead by the time the first rescue people arrived. As bad as the disaster was, it only closed the nearby highway for a few hours.

    More nuclear, less coal.

  7. MSBassSinger says:

    Yep. No matter how many Republican and Democrat politicians I hear say it, it is still “nu’-clee-ahr”.

  8. Doug Deal says:


    You said

    Doug Deal is a bit off on what he says.

    And go on to make “corrections”. The only point that we disagreed upon was on water as an absorber of neutrons. In this I am correct. If you have sufficiently enriched uranium the loss of neutrons is okay, but in natural and lightly enriched uranium, the loss of neutrons would stop the chain reaction.

    The only thing that we disagreed upon, you were wrong. Natural water which primarily has hydrogen as 1H is an absorber of neutrons (it will also slow them down very efficiently due the law of conservation of momentum, but a great deal of them are lost.

    In contrast, heavy water which has it’s hydrogen primarily in the form of 2D does not absorb, but does slow down neutrons. Not as well, since the nucleus is not the same mass as the neutron, but still very well.

    In any event, my statement about Chernobyl being a convention dirty bomb was not to imply that it was nuclear or could have been nuclear, it was to correct the assumption that some people have that the explosion was a nuclear bomb.

  9. Icarus says:

    Doug and MsBassSinger,

    You should both spend more time in bars,

    though probably not the same one at the same time.


  10. MSBassSinger says:

    Sorry, DougDeal, you are just plain wrong on water absorbing neutrons. That is not how it works. Fast neutrons collide with the hydrogen in water molecules and loses some energy when they collide.

    For example, if you shoot a BB at a bowling ball, the velocity of the BB isn’t changed much when they hit. However, when a BB hits a BB, the BB being shot (the neutron) slows down considerably because the masses are almost the same.

    When water is lost in an American light water reactor, fissioning stops, but the residual heat generation from the core continues long enough to cause problems (though not enough to breach containment). That is why the combination of control rods being fully inserted and flooding the reactor eliminates the problem.

    It is the hafnium in the control rods that absorb neutrons. Graphite (an allotrope of carbon) has been used, and may still be used in some older reactors, but it is considerably less efficient and less usable than hafnium.

    So, for what we disagreed on, I was right. As an aside, an American nuclear power plant cannot even be used as a dirty bomb. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Can I assume you’ve been through the nuclear physics courses appropriate for nuclear engineering and had experience in operating nuclear reactors?

  11. Doug Deal says:


    Well, I will actually violate Doug’s Law of Blogging Laziness, and actually look up reference. I think it is uncouth to quote qualifications as “proof” that something one says is correct, but if you must know I was a Physics and Chemical engineering major in college (but I only actually have a degree in Chemical Engineering).

    Try typing the following into Google.

    “light water absorbs neutrons reactor”

    From Wikipedia on Nuclear Pressurized Water Reactor (the kind used in your navy vessels you know so much about): “Water absorbs neutrons making it necessary to enrich the uranium fuel”

    From thinkquest . org: “However, since hydrogen-1 in the light water will absorb neutrons easily, the uranium used in the reactor needs to be enriched to uranium-235”

    From answers . com “Water absorbs neutrons making it necessary to enrich the uranium fuel”

    from Chemcases “There is a problem with light-water reactors: while slowing some neutrons, light water also absorbs many others. ”

    From Nuclear . org: “Because the light water absorbs neutrons ”

    From owt. com: “That means that the presence of water absorbs neutrons and slows the reaction”

    I could go on for as long as the thread of dreams giving you references, however, my laziness is acting up again.

    Apology accepted.

    Doug – Too many to count
    MSBassSinger/World – 0

  12. Doug Deal says:


    I forgot to add, I never said that US reactors could be turned into dirty bombs. I said the graphite in the Chernobly reactor created a giant dirty bomb.

    (You do read posts before you reply, do you not?)

  13. MSBassSinger says:


    Closet liberal? 🙂

    I never said that you said American reactors could become dirty bombs. Only pointing the fact out. You do read posts before you reply, don’t you?

    2nd, I stand by what I said. No, light water does not absorb neutrons. If it did, no reactors would work. Light water under pressure (~600 psig) is what transfers heat from the reactor core to the steam generators. It also serves the dual purpose of slowing down fast neutrons. Only the control rods absorb neutrons.

    No apology on my part, but when you finally dig down to the science instead of the opinion, I don’t expect an apology.

  14. Doug Deal says:

    MS Bass,

    In fact I think everyone should have closets, and large quantities of them. There should be subsidies so that the poor can afford them and the closets of the rich should be taxed.

    Yes, definitely a closet liberal.

    On a less serious note. I take you last response that you didn’t bother to do a quick web search?

  15. MSBassSinger says:


    Why would I do a web search for something I already know intimately? Months and months of school, hands-on training, and explaining this stuff at an oral board – exactly what would a web search do for me? You think the physics has changed? If so, we have bigger problems than whether to elect a brainless, gaffe-prone, unaccomplished twit like Obama, or a deceitful, ignorant McCain who deserts his wife once she isn’t pretty any more.

    I applaud your honesty at being a closet liberal, and encourage you to come out of the closet.

  16. Icarus says:

    You two are really going to have to take the geek factor down a bit if you want your fight to rank up there with Bill V Bill or Andre V Decaturguy.

  17. A Typical White Person says:

    The REAL trouble with the Deal v. Bass exchange is that some clever college student is going to have a paper due about this subject (titled “Theories of Nuclear Energy”) and will rip-off and copy this exact back-and-forth exchange and end-up with an A+ on his paper…all w/o learning one thing.

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