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new_horizons

Where does the plutonium come from?

Last week I wrote about how the shortage of Pu-238 might impact the exploration of the outer Solar System, but I didn’t much get into where the plutonium comes from. After all, while there are trace amounts of natural plutonium, there certainly isn’t nearly enough to fuel a space probe. So this week it seemed […]

The post Where does the plutonium come from? appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Pu-238 glowing with the heat of alpha radiation decay

Houston – we need some plutonium

The outer Solar System is a dark and lonely place – solar energy drops off with the inverse square of distance to the Sun so a spaceship in orbit around Jupiter (5.5 times as far from the Sun as the Earth) receives only about 3% as much solar energy as one orbiting Earth. Solar panels […]

The post Houston – we need some plutonium appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

mythbusters signs

Yucca Mountain: Questions and Concerns

Yucca Mountain raises a lot of controversy – let’s face it; if it didn’t then a 4-part series of blog postings would hardly be necessary. Part of the reason for the controversy is that there are a number of worries about the impact of spent fuel disposal on the environment and on the health of […]

The post Yucca Mountain: Questions and Concerns appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Flag-map_of_North_Korea

Avoiding Needless Wars, Part 6: North Korea

Over the last few months, North Korea has severely tested the world’s patience. It conducted its third nuclear test, canceled the armistice ending the Korean War, threatened the US with nuclear ruin, warned foreigners to leave the country because war was imminent, cut its hotline with South Korea, and readied a missile for firing. This […]

The post Avoiding Needless Wars, Part 6: North Korea appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

fuelchange

What were they thinking?

Every so often we hear something in the news about nuclear reactors fueled with highly enriched uranium (HEU); usually with regards to nuclear weapons proliferation. Back in the good old days both the US and USSR constructed over a hundred small HEU-fueled reactors and shipped them all over the world – Uruguay had one, there were some in […]

The post What were they thinking? appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

north korea test

North Korea’s latest test

Well, it finally happened – North Korea finally set off another nuclear test, which wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest with you. After a couple of low-yield devices the North Koreans had plenty of reasons to continue testing – we’ll talk about that in a moment – and the world reacted fairly predictably [...]

The post North Korea’s latest test appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Research reactors and weapons-grade uranium

As I discussed in a past posting on uranium enrichment, the uranium we dig out of the ground is unable to sustain a nuclear chain reaction without a lot of coaxing – it has to be immersed in heavy water or surrounded by graphite as opposed to natural (light) water. This is why we enrich [...]

The post Research reactors and weapons-grade uranium appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Thorium reactors and radioactive waste

As I mentioned in my first posting on thorium reactors, this is a huge topic that deserves a careful discussion – even four postings isn’t enough to do justice to the topic, but it’s a good start. So this will be my last posting on thorium reactors for now, but I might come back to [...]

The post Thorium reactors and radioactive waste appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Back to thorium – the thorium cycle and non-proliferation

At one point John Kennedy predicted there might be over 20 nuclear powers by the mid-1970s – one of the triumphs of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is the fact that, as of the year 2000, there were fewer than 10 and only North Korea was added to the total since then. But we know that the [...]

The post Back to thorium – the thorium cycle and non-proliferation appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Safe as houses

Quick note – I haven’t exhausted the topic of thorium, and I am incredibly gratified at the number of comments my last two postings have attracted and the thought that’s gone into them. But I wanted to take a short break from thorium since I know that not everyone is completely enamored of that particular [...]

The post Safe as houses appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.