Why Don’t We Have a Nuclear Engine?

Make no mistake, I’m not a fan of nuclear power. Honestly I’m not a fan of the criminal fraud which was used to sell it to us and the even greater outright crime of seizing perfectly good farmland under the “imminent domain” rules letting for profit corporations pay pennies for every hundred dollars of its real value. By criminal fraud I mean when I was in grade school we were given literature that “once they shook out the design” nuclear power plants would only need to change their fuel rods once every 30 years. I distinctly remember reading that in our “Weekly Reader” or whatever it was.

That was the 1960s. It’s 2017 now and most people know “they” didn’t bother to shake out the design. “They” just kept cutting costs for profits cranking out a series of bad designs which required rod changes about as often as cars require oil changes. Since we were sold a cock and bull story of “30 years down the road” nobody forced the industry to develop a 100% safe forever, not just 500 years, method of totally recycling spent rods. As a result of this scam and the fact nobody wants nuclear waste transported through their neighborhood, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of “spent” rods stored on-site around the country and most likely the world. An ecological time bomb we can never defuse. Keep in mind that it is most likely the same company that poured the concrete for the failing bridges near a nuclear power plant poured the concrete for the “containment facilities.” According to this the first commercial nuclear power plant went on-line in 1956 so . . .

Given all of that time, we still don’t have a nuclear engine.

Seriously, we have a nuclear tea kettle. Conceptually, and probably physically, we just have a different stove under the tea kettle. Coal, natural gas and nuclear boil water to make steam which spins a turbine. From the turbine one it’s all the same. We’ve known about powerpots for years. In 2011 “Popular Science” ran an article about a new alloy which converts heat directly into electricity. Have you heard about large power plants using this alloy to generate electricity for the grid? I haven’t. I haven’t even heard of a metal roofing company making big sheets of it for home roofs. It would seem this type of roof would be an easier sell than installing solar panels. Steel roofs stand up to much more bad weather than shingles of any kind. One should be able to skim coat the steel and wire it into batteries with a lightning strike protector somewhere in that circuit. If your entire roof is a lightning rod you don’t really need rods then.

If we can make an alloy that can generate electricity from heat we should be able to make an alloy which generates electricity directly from the electrons or whatever which come flying out of nuclear fuel rods.

We’ve all seen drawings and informational videos where they move graphic (or some other substance) rods up and down in a bed of fuel rods to control the nuclear reaction. Wouldn’t it be far cooler if instead of boiling water we just caught those electrons and turned them into electricity directly? In theory all of those “spent” rods could still be producing electricity up to the point they were no longer radioactive.

Instead we focused on boiling water.

In truth I believe the EPA brought about the only significant change in how the grid gets its power. Oddly enough it wasn’t by regulating the power industry, but the trash industry. Landfills produce huge quantities of various combustible gases for generations. Many decades ago when I was writing some software for Waste Management Inc. I visited Lake Landfill which was one of the early “victims” of this regulation. Landfill operators became responsible for disposal of those gases because they went up into the atmosphere and did horrible things. As a result of this regulation all new landfills (and possibly some old ones) were required to put ventilation tubes at various levels within the landfill.

Initially the gases were just burned, but a few people figured out you could feed them to a slightly modified jet turbine engine and generate copious quantities of electricity. A few more regulations and suddenly the power grid was required to purchase and utilize this electricity. I know the landfill started off with only one engine, but it was not enough to consume all of the gas. I think it went up to 3, maybe more before they found the sweet spot. At some point someone told me the landfill was providing electricity for roughly 10,000 homes all because of this “burdensome” regulation. Guess what? Landfill operators around the country started trying to horizontal drill ventilation tubes into long capped landfills and install jet engines because this regulation turned into a serious revenue stream.

A series of regulations got rid of a hazardous waste while giving us a large quantity of electricity. It is long past time we got a series of regulations to get rid of all the hazardous nuclear waste by giving us a new alloy which will turn that radiation directly into electricity until the deadly radiation ceases to emit.

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