COVID-19 response, shut down all nonessential functions for 15days. What is the “black body” reaction of America?

When engineers and scientists want to study an object, the first step is often to study it as a “black body”, apply an impulse to it and study how the body reacts. One such “opportunity” is just now happening, the Coronavirus COVID-19 and how we, as a people react to it.

The flu season started innocently enough, but there was an increase in the number of healthcare visits for flue like symptoms, already when the flue season started in week 39 (October). At this time nobody had even heard of COVID-19 

Th healthcare workers expected a higher flu season than average, but nobody expected this. On Dec 31 the Chinese  officially acknowledged that this virus could spread from human to human, but was still insisting it was largely contained to the live animal market in Wuhan. But Wuhan is a large regional hub, with lots of people, even international visitors were coming and going. No tests had been developed yet for the Coronavirus, so who is to say when the outbreak started. Certainly not the Chinese, they had successfully silenced a whistleblower, and he later died of the disease. We may never know the onset, and how many had spread the virus internationally before December 31. The silence of the Chinese government was a medical malpractice of worldwide importance. After Christmas the flu symptoms seem to have abated, but after President Trump issued the travel ban for foreigners who have recently been in China, people got nervous and the healthcare visits took off again. The question is, how much did the increased healthcare visits help or hurt? This chart shows the pneumonia cases, since this is usually how people die, not from the flu but from the following pneumonia.

Yes, there seems to be a negative correlation between health care visits and pneumonia deaths. More early attention to flu like symptoms and early intervention leads to fewer pneumonia deaths. Not really surprising, but earlier intervention seems even more important than I thought.

But what was really stunning is the effect the intervention to “flatten the curve”,  that is to slow the spread of the virus by 6 feet of separation “better six feet apart than six feet under“, telling everybody in the country to stay home if they do not have an absolutely essential job, don’t cough into open air, wash your hands with soap and don’t touch your face, had. Enough people seem to have obeyed. Did it make a difference? Check out the total deaths per week:

The number of deaths in the whole country shrank by twenty thousand per Week! This is remarkable. Will it continue, will changing hygiene and social separation continue, or will we return back to where we were before?

Time will tell, but there is much hope.

The reverse is just as good:

 

Teaching online at Penn State University. All real breakthroughs occur at the crossroads of science. This is an opportunity!

I have always loved to teach. I especially enjoyed the person to person contact when you tell of something and get a smile back – they got it. One of the objects of teaching the so called Capstone Course for engineers to be is to teach cross-science, for it is in the intersection between different branches of science, crafts and engineering disciplines that real breakthroughs are made. The object is to revolutionize the students thinking. Up to now they have learnt – and learnt it well – do as your teacher have taught you, and you will get an A. Any deviation is a negative – and bothersome for the teacher. This is an attempt for me to change that – even in an online session, but since there is no direct feedback, it is really an offline instruction. see what you think – did it change your thinking?

 

This tree, the green one was planted upside down. The branches became roots, the roots became branches. It is planted just east of  Penn State Main building. Think root cause analysis.

Chernobyl was a carbon moderated Nuclear reactor. Its failure mode was to go prompt critical and splat in an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. No containment vessel could contain the explosion, so why go to the extra expense of building one? Rely instead on multiple safety circuits. The night crew disabled some safety circuits to capture power on an orderly shutdown. They had never been properly trained.

The cloud. Sweden was the first to report on the accident. Two reactors shut down due to excessive radiation in the air outside the plants.

With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible. The Three Mile Island accident was bad. The Chernobyl disaster was ten million times worse. Ah yes, I remember it well.

One morning at work, after the Three Mile Island incident, but before Chernobyl a fellow co-worker, a Ph.D. Chemist working on an Electron Capture Detector containing a small amount of Nickel 63, came with a surprising question: You know nuclear science, how come the reactors in Chernobyl don’t have a containment vessel? Well – I answered, it is because they are carbon moderated and their failure mode is that they go prompt critical, and no containment vessel in the world can hold it in, so they skip it. He turned away in disgust. A few weeks later my wife’s father died, and we went to Denmark to attend the funeral. The day of the return back to the U.S. we heard that there had been a nuclear incident in Sweden, too much radiation had caused two nuclear power stations to close down. The Chernobyl disaster had happened 26 April 1986, and this was the first time anyone outside of Chernobyl has heard about it, two days later. This was still the Soviet Union, and nothing ever did go wrong in it worthy of reporting.

(But the carbon moderated Uranium reactors are the most efficient in producing Pu-239 the preferred nuclear bomb material.)

This has nothing to do with anything, but Chernobyl can be translated wormwood. It is mentioned in the Bible, Revelation 8: 10-11 “ And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Molten Salt Thorium reactors cannot be used to supply bomb material, and they are far safer than even Light water Uranium reactors.

With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.  It began with a magnitude 9.0 earthquake not far from the Fukushima 6 Nuclear reactor complex. The impact was a magnitude 6.8 earthquake and the operators immediately scrammed the safety rods to stop all the reactors. This succeeded! The reactors were designed with earthquakes in mind, and they passed the test. The backup power started up successfully so the cooling pumps could operate. There was one major problem though. The earthquake was so bad that the water in the spent fuel holding tanks splashed out and exposed the spent fuel rods to air making them emit radioactivity into the air.

The water pumps worked for a while, but then came the tsunami. All the reactors were inside a tsunami wall, so far, so good

But the fuel storage tanks for the backup power generators were outside the tsunami wall and were washed away. The batteries were only supposed to last until backup power was established, and with water circulation ended the meltdown started.

This disaster was even bigger than Chernobyl and contamination is still spreading.

In the periodic table, iron has the densest core. Fusion can occur with elements with a lower atomic number than iron, fission can begin with  with elements after lead. What happens in a supernova?

On climate change: Temp records come from boreholes, seashells, and looking at isotope variations among other sources . Of particular interest is the medieval warm period and the little ice age. How did the little ice age happen? There was no decrease in CO2 during that time.

Especially interesting is cosmic radiation that does not come from the sun. It varies a lot, and consists mostly of iron nuclei and comes from distant supernovas. There was two of them, in 1572 and 1604 A.D., both shone brighter in the sky than Venus. Since then we have not seen any supernovas anywhere nearly as bright . Did they trigger the little ice age?

A single iron nucleus can ionize thousands of air molecules, causing condensation and forming the beginning of a cloud.

The iron nuclei enter the earth’s atmosphere with a speed that exceeds the speed of light in atmosphere, causing this eerie blue light. It spreads like a sonic boom.

Cosmic radiation in the form of iron nuclei is the major source of the generation of Carbon 14. When fossil fuel is burned there is very little C14 in the CO2 generated, but if it is burned by digestion of food, by fermentation, by burning wood or by wildfire, it contains the same concentration of C14 as was in the air at the time of the generation of the biomass. Since C14 has a half life of  5700 +- 40 years, we could find out the age of that biomass – or could we?

This is one of my very favorite slides. The best way of finding out how a black body responds is by introducing an impulse and see what happens. In this case the impulse was open air Nuclear bomb tests, performed mostly by United States and the Soviet Union, but all in the Northern Hemisphere. Test stations to see the amount of C14 in the air were set up in Austria and New Zealand. What did we learn? We learn that the air mixes between the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere in about 2 years, and because the half-life of C14 shown here is 12.5 years, not 5700 years, it shows the absorption rate in the oceans. Both of these values would have been difficult if not impossible to find out without open air Nuclear tests, Were they bad? You bet, but since they happened, glean what you can from it. What else did we learn? You can no longer use carbon dating if there is any chance of chance of contamination with newer biomass, or if it is newer than 1955 A.D. Is the specimen appearing to be older or younger?

Since we have shown that the amount of C14 in the air has not been constant over time the age curve has to be calibrated. How do we do that? By using artifacts of known age.

The radioactive fallout decay from a Nuclear test occurs faster than from the Chernobyl disaster. Every nuclear fallout fingerprint is different.

A Liquid Fluoride Thorium based fast breeder nuclear reactor produces much less TRansUranium waste, 0.01% waste products compared to a Uranium-235 fast breeder. The Thorium process has a much higher efficiency of fission than  the Uranium process.

Pu = Plutonium, Am = Americum, Cm = Curium, all TRansUraniums, nasty stuff.

With Thorium based Nuclear power, there are no real problems, with traditional U235 power long tern storage is an immense and urgent problem, and has been since the 1960’s. At that time Sweden had a heavy water  U-238 nuclear power program going, but abandoned it in favor of traditional U-235 power. U.S. promised to provide the material and take care of the reprocessing and final storage of all nuclear waste at cost if Sweden joined the nuclear proliferation treaty. Reprocessing was to be done in Washington State, and one of the final storage sites mentioned was Yucca Mountain in Nevada, having the ideal Geological properties.

Time goes by and in 1982 – Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, requiring the establishment of a deep geologic repository for nuclear waste storage and isolation. Yucca Mountain was high on the list out of 9 possible sites.

Time goes by, and Congress is still not able to decide on a solution. Meanwhile, TRU’s from spent and reprocessed fuel is piling up in less than ideal locations. Thorium based nuclear power would go a long way to alleviate this problem.

Radioactive waste from an LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)  decays down to background radiation in 300 years instead of a million years for U-235 based reactors. Initially LFTRs produce as much radioactivity as an U-235 based nuclear reactor, since fission converts mass to heat, but the decay products have a much shorter half-life.

And Fukushima is still aglow.

The first thing we must realize is that rare earth metals are not all that rare. They are a thousand times or more abundant than gold or platinum in the earth crust and easy to mine, but a little more difficult to refine. Thorium and Uranium will also be mined at the same time as the rare earth metals since they appear together in the ore.

The U.S. used to have a strategic reserve of rare earth metals, but that was sold off in 1998 as being no longer cost effective or necessary. Two years later the one U.S. rare earth metals mine that used to supply nearly the whole world, the Mountain Pass Mine in California closed down, together with its refining capacity. From that day all rare earth metals were imported. In 2010 it started up again together with the refining capacity but went bankrupt in 2015, closed down the refining but continued selling ore to China. They will start up refining again late 2020. Meanwhile China is slapping on a 25% import tariff on imported ore starting July 1 2020. Rare earth metals may be in short supply for a while.

U.S. used to be the major supplier of rare earth metals, which was fine up to around 1984. Then the U.S. regulators determined that Uranium and Thorium contained in the ore made the ore radioactive, so they decided to make rare earth metal ore subject to nuclear regulations with all what that meant for record keeping and control. This made mining in the U.S. unprofitable so in 2001 the last domestic mine closed down. China had no such scruples, such as human and environmental concerns, so they took over the rare earth metals mining and in 2010 controlled over 95% of the world supply, which was according to their long term plan of controlling the world by 2025.

 

 

Climate change is real and positive for the environment. The real challenge is clean and available water in the 10-40 region.

The safe, clean water essential to all life is rapidly running out in much of the world. Yet the politicians are concentrating on air pollution in the form of CO2 and methane as if a catastrophe is about to hit us. Western US, most of the 10-40 window (the area between the 10th and the 40th latitude), Australia and western South America are using up its safe and drinkable water supply much faster than it is replenished. In addition, what is left is getting polluted.Let me give you an anecdotal example.

More than twenty years ago I was part of a team that made wet processing equipment for making computer chip wafers. It involved cleaning and etching using isopropyl alcohol, hydrocloric, sulphuric, and hydrofluoric acid as well as Ozone, all potent stuff. To collect the used chemicals we had designed a 5-way output port, so the chemicals could be collected separately after use. The equipment was made and shipped off to South Korea. It was assembled in a brand new, state of the art positive air pressure clean room facility. The processing machine was installed by the Koreans, but under the 5-way port was a large funnel, going to the drain and directly out in the sewer.

A couple of years before, in the US we had a valve in a similar machine that sprung a leak, so a small amount of hydrofluoric acid got discharged into the sewage. This poisoned the sewage processing plant, and a large fine was levied. No such worry in Asia. The sewage went directly out in the ocean to be diluted. How could they be persuaded not to dump the alcohol and acid directly into the sewage? There were no environmental regulations prohibiting them from doing so. The only argument that persuaded them was economic. It was cheaper to collect the used alcohol and hydrofluoric acid, clean and reuse it rather than dump it. Unfortunately sulphuric acid and hydrocloric acid was too cheap to buy new, so that was still dumped. This is the mindset of many developing countries.

In China many of these facilities are inland, so large water aquifers get poisoned for centuries to come. These are the people we up to now have entrusted with our future production of just about everything, since they do not have the environmental protection laws they can produce the stuff much cheaper. But it comes at a price. The yellow river now does not anymore reach the ocean for part of the year.

As I have explained in a previous post: https://lenbilen.com/2020/02/28/climate-change-is-real-and-is-caused-by-rising-co2-levels-leading-to-less-extreme-weather-this-is-on-balance-good-for-the-environment/  global warming is real, but it only occurs in temperate regions, and predominantly in the winter. Summertime maxima are actually decreasing slightly, so the net effect of climate change is that it is positive for the environment.

Not so with water pollution. It is a much bigger and dangerous problem, and only by shifting our attention to it and from CO2 can we begin to solve it. To clean up the environment will take a lot of energy, and the only solution I see is switching our electric energy supply away from fossil fuel and to Thorium based nuclear energy. Here are

Twenty-five reasons to rapidly develop Thorium based Nuclear Power generation.

We need badly to develop and build Thorium based molten salt fast breeder nuclear reactors to secure our energy needs in the future. Lest anyone should be threatened by the words fast breeder, it simply means it uses fast neutrons instead of thermal neutrons, and breeder means it produces more fissible material than it consumes, in the case of Thorium the ratio is about 1.05.

1. A million years supply at today’s consumption levels.

2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

3. One ten-thousandth of the TRansUranium waste compared to a U-235 based fast breeder reactor.

4. Thorium based nuclear power produces Pu-238, needed for space exploration.

5. Radioactive waste from an LFTR decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors.

6. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

7. Produces isotopes that helps cure certain cancers.

8. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe.

9. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten.

10. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

11. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions.

12. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

13. Thorium Nuclear Power generators  scale  beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

14. No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas.

15. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

17. Russia has an active Thorium program.

18. China is having a massive Thorium program.

19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program.

20. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

21. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, disasters like Chernobyl are impossible.

23. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

24. Produces electrical energy at about 4 cents per KWh.

25. Can deplete some of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Climate change is real and is caused by rising CO2 levels, leading to less extreme weather. This is on balance good for the environment!

We have experienced a 50% increase in CO2 levels since the beginning of industrialization. In the last 30 years the level has risen 17%, from about 350 ppm to nearly 410 ppm. Is this good or bad for the climate?

The traditional way to approach the problem of guessing what effect of rising CO2 levels has on the climate is by creating climate models. Thy have recently been adjusted, and they suddenly show a much higher rate of future temperature increase, in this case what is supposed to happen to global temperatures for a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial times, from 270ppm to 540ppm.

https://lenbilen.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/screenshot_2020-02-07-climate-models-are-running-red-hot-and-scientists-done28099t-know-why1.png

The first thing that strikes you is the great discrepancies between the models. The Russian, Chinese and Norwegian models show a much slower temperature rise than  rest of the models. Why is that?

There are two ways to approach this problem. The climate models make certain assumptions about the behavior of the changing atmosphere, and based on these assumptions model future temperature changes. This is the approach from IPCC for the last 32 years. These models are failing miserably when compared to actual temperature changes. This is the traditional way.

The other way i to observe what is actually happening to our temperature over time as the CO2 increases. We have over 50 years of excellent global temperature data, so with these we can see where, when and by how much the earth has warmed.

The most drastic temperature rise on earth has been in the Arctic above the 80th latitude. In the winter of 2018 it was 8C above the 50 year average. See charts from the Danish Meteorological Institute:

Note, there is no increase at all in the summer temperatures!

The fall temperature saw an increase of 5C and the spring temperature saw an increase of about 2.5C.

The 2020 winter has so far seen an about 5c increase Source: DMI.

This 8C ( or 5C) rise in winter temperatures is significant, most would even say alarming, but my response is, why is that?

To get the answer we must study molecular absorption spectroscopy and explain a couple of facts for the 97% of all scientists who have not studied molecular spectroscopy. IPCC and most scientists claim that the greenhouse effect is dependent on the gases that are in the atmosphere, and their combined effect is additive according to a logarithmic formula. This is true up to a certain point, but it is not possible to absorb more than 100% of all the energy available in a certain frequency band! For example: If water vapor absorbs 50% of all incoming energy in a certain band, and CO2 absorbs another 90% of the energy in the same band, the result is that 95% is absorbed, (90% + 50% * (100% – 90%)),  not 140%, (90% + 50%).

The following chart shows both CO2 and H2O are absorbing greenhouse gases, with H20 being the stronger greenhouse gas, absorbing over a much wider spectrum, and they overlap for the most part. But it also matters in what frequency ranges they absorb.

To better understand the importance of frequency spectra this we will look at the frequency ranges of the incoming solar radiation and the outgoing black body radiation of the earth. It is the latter that causes the greenhouse effect. Take a look at this chart:

The red area represents the observed amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. the white area under the red line represents radiation absorbed in the atmosphere. Likewise, the blue area represents the outgoing black body radiation that is re-emitted. The remaining white area under the magenta, blue or black line represents the retained absorbed energy that causes the greenhouse effect.

Let us now take a look at the Carbon Dioxide bands of absorption, at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns. Of them the 2.7 and 4.3 micron bands absorb where there is little black body radiation, the only band that counts is at 15 microns, and that is in a band where the black body radiation has its maximum. However it is also in a band where water vapor also absorb, not as much as CO2,only about 20% to 70% as much. Water vapor or absolute humidity is highly dependent on the temperature of the air, so at 30C there may be 50 times as much water vapor, at 0C there may be ten times as much water vapor, and at -25C there may be more CO2 than water vapor. At those low temperatures the gases are mostly additive. In the tropics with fifty times more water vapor than CO2, increased CO2 has no influence on the temperature whatsoever. Temperature charts confirm this assertion:

The temperature in the tropics displays no trend whatsoever. It follows the temperature of the oceans, rises in an el niño and falls in a la niña. We are now in the end of an el niño, soon to be followed by a rather strong la niña.The temperature in the southern hemisphere shows no trend. In the northern temperate region there is a slight increase, but the great increase is occurring in the Arctic. There is no increase in the Antarctic yet even though the increase in CO2 is the same in the Antarctic as it is in the Arctic and the winter temperature in the Antarctic is even lower than in the Arctic. So CO2 increase cannot be the sole answer to the winter temperature increase in the Arctic.

A few days ago there was a storm of historic magnitude, filled with moisture going up from the Mexican Gulf through the Atlantic and really sacked Scotland and Norway. The weather warnings called for severe floods and hurricane-like winds:

What happened to the temperature when the storm arrived?

The Arctic temperature above the 80th latitude rose about 12C, from about -30C to about -18C, and most of the moisture snowed out. What happened to the ice cover when the storm arrived? Let’s see the most recent Arctic ice cover.

As the storm arrives, some of the ice breaks up, but at the end of the storm it bounces back, helped with all the snow that just fell. After the snowfall ends the ice formed easily breaks up again.

Is the snow cover increasing in the Arctic? Let us see what the snow statistics show. These are from the Rutgers snow lab.

The fall snow extent is increasing by more than 2 percent per year.

The winter snowfall has also increased but only by 0.04 percent per year.

The snow covers all of Russia, Northern China, Mongolia, Tibet, Kashmir and northern Pakistan, Northern Afghanistan, Northern Iran, Turkey, Part of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and parts of Western and Northern United States.

In the spring on the other hand the snow pack is melting faster, about 1.6 percent less snow per year. One of the major reasons for an earlier snow-melt is that the air is getting dirtier, especially over China, and to some extent Russia. The soot from burning coal and mining and manufacturing changes the albedo of the snow. The soot is visible on old snow all the way up to the North Pole. The other reason is that the poles are getting warmer. In the fall and winter it is mostly due to increased snowfall, but in the spring, as soon as the temperature rises over the freezing point, melting occurs.

Moving down to the continental U.S. there are even more good news.

The data presented in the next six graphs were extracted from the data available at the NOAA National Data Center Climate Data Online (NNDC CDO) website.

Yes, rain (and snow) are increasing, but it is also raining slightly more often and regularly, so the net result is a slight decrease in flooding.

Of course, this could change in the future, and we need to watch the rain patterns, as they are constantly changing. Building more levees is not always the answer, since this will increase the risk for flooding in other places. It may be necessary to let certain areas, mostly farmland and woodland be flooded from time to time.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) uses readily available temperature and precipitation data to estimate relative dryness. It is a standardized index that generally spans -10 (dry) to +10 (wet). The chart shows Continental U.S. is getting wetter, about 0.01 PDSI index per year with the lows trend is getting wetter the fastest. This is good news.

The temperature extremes keep narrowing, the maximum temperatures decrease by 0.033 degree F/decade, but the minimum temperatures increase by 0.309 degree F/decade. This is good, since tornadoes are a result of extreme temperature differences, most often associated with cold fronts.

 The Continental U.S. has not had an EF5 tornado (the most severe) since 2013. Let us hope this trend continues.

Contrary to popular belief, hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. mainland are decreasing slightly, especially major hurricanes.

Taking a closer look at the seasonal temperature trends  we can see that the winter aveerage temperatures are rising by about 0.3F per decade but the summer temperatures rise only about one seventh as much, (0.04F/decade)  .

These are the average temperatures. The minimum average temperatures rise in all seasons, but mostly in the winter,

The maximum temperatures barely budge. They rise in the winter and decrease ever so slightly in the summer.

Watching the warming of the poles, and even the continental U.S., far from being an impending end of mankind as we know it, may even be beneficial. Warmer poles in the winter means less temperature gradient between the poles and the tropics, leading to less severe storms. They will still be there, but less severe.

There is one great benefit of increased CO2, the greening of the earth.

Thanks to this greening, which is accomplished with the fertilizer effect of CO2, the earth can now keep another 2 billion people from starvation, not to mention what it does to plants and wildlife.

Having said that, I am still a conservationist. Coal, oil and gas will run out at some time, and I for one would like to save some for our great grandchildren, not yet born. In addition I would like to minimize the need for mining, which can be quite destructive. We have immense environmental problems, like water pollution, deforestation, intoxication of the soil, over-fertilization with nitrogen, real air pollutants, such as Sulfur compounds and soot, just to name a few. They have one thing in common: It takes lots of energy to do the cleanup.

The best solution is to switch most electricity generation to Thorium molten salt nuclear power. There are multiple reasons why this should be done as a priority by streamlining regulation and facilitate competition in development of the best solutions to the energy problems.

Twenty-five reasons to rapidly develop Thorium based Nuclear Power generation.

We need badly to develop and build Thorium based molten salt fast breeder nuclear reactors to secure our energy needs in the future. Lest anyone should be threatened by the words fast breeder, it simply means it uses fast neutrons instead of thermal neutrons, and breeder means it produces more fissible material than it consumes, in the case of Thorium the ratio is about 1.05.

1. A million years supply at today’s consumption levels.

2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

3. One ten-thousandth of the TRansUranium waste compared to a U-235 based fast breeder reactor.

4. Thorium based nuclear power produces Pu-238, needed for space exploration.

5. Radioactive waste from an LFTR decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors.

6. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

7. Produces isotopes that helps cure certain cancers.

8. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe.

9. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten.

10. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

11. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions.

12. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

13. Thorium Nuclear Power generators  scale  beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

14. No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas.

15. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

17. Russia has an active Thorium program.

18. China is having a massive Thorium program.

19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program.

20. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

21. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, disasters like Chernobyl are impossible.

23. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

24. Produces electrical energy at about 4 cents per KWh.

25. Can deplete some of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

 

President Trump promises innovative approaches to eliminate nuclear waste. Thorium is the answer! A limerick.

The nuclear waste meant for Yucca

would destine Nevada the sucka

But with Thorium we rid

us of waste that is hid

No need for that waste to be trucka!

Where is the storage for spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste now? Look at the map, it is scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is just the U.S. installations!

Many years ago I studied Engineering at Chalmers’ University in Sweden and I thought I would become a nuclear engineer. Sweden had at that time a peaceful heavy water based nuclear power program together with Canada and India. The advantage with heavy water as moderator is that it can use natural, un-enriched Uranium. One of the end products is of course Plutonium 239, the preferred material to make nuclear bombs, but it could also use Thorium, and the end product is then Plutonium 238, used in space exploration, and we were dreaming big. One of the advantages of Thorium as fuel is that it produces about 0,01%  of trans-Uranium waste compared to Uranium as fuel. About that time the U.S. proposed we should abandon the heavy water program and switch to light water enriched Uranium based nuclear power. They would sell the enriched Uranium, and reprocess the spent fuel at cost. They also had the ideal final resting place for the radioactive waste products in Nevada. This was an offer the Swedish government could not refuse. This was in the 1960’s! India on the other hand did refuse, and they eventually got the nuclear bomb. In disgust I switched my attention back to control engineering.

 

 

 

What did President Trump mean with innovative approaches?

This is where Thorium comes in!

Here is a list of

Twenty-five reasons to rapidly develop Thorium based Nuclear Power generation.

We need badly to develop and build Thorium based molten salt fast breeder nuclear reactors to secure our energy needs in the future. Lest anyone should be threatened by the words fast breeder, it simply means it uses fast neutrons instead of thermal neutrons, and breeder means it produces more fissible material than it consumes, in the case of Thorium the ratio is about 1.05.

1. A million years supply at today’s consumption levels.

2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

3. One ten-thousandth of the TRansUranium waste compared to a U-235 based fast breeder reactor.

4. Thorium based nuclear power produces Pu-238, needed for space exploration.

5. Radioactive waste from an LFTR decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors.

6. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

7. Produces isotopes that helps cure certain cancers.

8. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe.

9. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten.

10. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

11. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions.

12. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

13. Thorium Nuclear Power generators  scale  beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

14. No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas.

15. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

17. Russia has an active Thorium program.

18. China is having a massive Thorium program.

19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program.

20. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

21. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, disasters like Chernobyl are impossible.

23. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

24. Produces electrical energy at about 4 cents per KWh.

25. Can deplete some of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Look carefully at note 17. We can do better than Russia!

All electric cars in our future? Is there enough mining capacity in the world?

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer is preparing to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on a plan that would fast-track the elimination of nearly every gas-powered vehicle in the country.

The Senate’s top Democrat wants to spend a massive amount of money enticing Americans to exchange their gas-guzzling vehicles for an electric car. Schumer’s proposal, which he announced in a New York Times Oct. 24 editorial , shows Democrats are lurching leftward on the issue.

Sounds good on paper. Sen. Schumer  promises advances in battery technology not invented, much less developed yet. There is not enough mining capacity to provide 65 million or more  electric cars with enough battery capacity to have an acceptable range, using existing technology.

There is another problem with today’s batteries. Cobalt is already in short supply for the manufacturing of electric car batteries currently in the production chain. Half of the world’s mining supply takes place in the Democratic republic of Congo, and

Image result for cobalt supply and demand"

they use a lot of child labor to mine it.

And China is, as always ready to exploit Africa. Never mind the consequences.

And one more thing. Electric cars are for the future. If CO2 is the great driver of environmental destruction, never mind that the increased CO2 is feeding 2 billion more people than before thanks to the greening effect of increased CO2, then we should develop the battery technology first, and when all Coal fired and natural gas fired electric plants are eliminated, then switch to electric cars.

How do you eliminate all Coal and natural gas electric plants? Look at the U.S usage: (Last  year 2016)

Image result for electric production"

We can see that renewable energy will not suffice. The only real answer is to go nuclear, bur we are already the world’s biggest importer of Uranium. (The Uranium One deal, when we sold 20% of our Uranium mining rights to Russia did not help). No, the only real answer is to rapidly develop molten salt Thorium nuclear energy production. There are many advantages to that. Here are 25:

Twenty-five reasons to rapidly develop Thorium based Nuclear Power generation.

We need badly to develop and build Thorium based molten salt fast breeder nuclear reactors to secure our energy needs in the future. Lest anyone should be threatened by the words fast breeder, it simply means it uses fast neutrons instead of thermal neutrons, and breeder means it produces more fissible material than it consumes, in the case of Thorium the ratio is about 1.05.

1. A million years supply at today’s consumption levels.

2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.

3. One ten-thousandth of the TRansUranium waste compared to a U-235 based fast breeder reactor.

4. Thorium based nuclear power produces Pu-238, needed for space exploration.

5. Radioactive waste from an LFTR decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors.

6. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.

7. Produces isotopes that helps cure certain cancers.

8. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe.

9. Molten Salt Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten.

10. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.

11. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions.

12. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.

13. Thorium Nuclear Power generators  scale  beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.

14. No need for evacuation zones, can be placed near urban areas.

15. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.

16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.

17. Russia has an active Thorium program.

18. China is having a massive Thorium program.

19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program.

20. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?

21. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.

22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, disasters like Chernobyl are impossible.

23. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.

24. Produces electrical energy at about 4 cents per KWh.

25. Can deplete some of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.

 

 

 

Penn State University Engineering Capstone Showcase, Fall 2019.

Thursday, two days before finals was the PSU Engineering Capstone showcase. Even though I have been a lecturer there for over seven years I didn’t realize it is the largest Capstone showcase of this type in the world.

The set-up began at 10:30 a. m. in the Bryce Jordan main Arena, with 84 senior Capstone projects displaying their results and 21 teams from the Cornerstone projects.

The success of the showcase is in part because of a large number of corporate sponsors, some who sponsor multiple projects. Some of these projects are at the very cutting edge of  science and provide a real challenge for the students.

Some of the projects are international in character. This poses special challenges, for example: Singapore time is exactly 12 hours apart from EST. This is also giving the students a taste of what multinational cooperation entails.

My role as an instructor is quite simple: To convert the engineering students from students to world class engineers in 16 short weeks. One does what one can. The engineering students are organized in teams of 4 or 5 persons. All of my teams this year consisted of engineers from at least 2 engineering majors, so the teams must get to know each other, work together as a functioning team, do the research, build a series of prototypes or a final product as a team, with deadlines to meet. This is quite different from cramming for an exam.

The projects are quite different: This fall I had the opportunity to coach 5 teams:

The first team was tasked to make a knee brace for people recovering from knee replacement surgery. The object was to measure progress in the recovery of the patient in a consistent measurable way. To do this the team affixed four sensors, one for temperature, one sensing pulse, and two gyroscopes, sensing angles and motions. They are connected to a small Arduino Nano computer, collecting all data and storing it on a small SD card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next team was tasked to make an autonomous, industrial size vacuum cleaner to suck up lime dust in a lime packing facility. It was supposed to have an 8 hour continuous operating time on batteries, and after an 8 hour shift empty itself and go into recharging mode. By the way, lime dust is nasty. This turned to be over ambitious to accomplish on a 1000 dollar budget, which is the limit for the students, so they were left to make a model that did not accomplish anywhere near what the original specification had defined. These are nevertheless great learning experiences for the teams, how to scope projects right, so they are possible to accomplish the deliverables on time and under budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third team got quite an ambitious task to fulfill.

The object was to automate a lime reactivity test procedure. They were given the exact specifications how it was to be done, fill a thermos with so much temperature controlled water, add a specified amount of lime, measure the temperature rise, document the results, empty the bucket, rinse and repeat. The team fulfilled all the requirements on time and only exceeded the allowable budget by less than 100 dollars, so there was no money left to transport the device to the showcase. Anyhow, this is how it looks:

This would have been a candidate for best project, but I could only nominate two, so I nominated the fourth and the fifth team instead.

The fourth team was charged with automate a leaf cutting procedure. There is a great need to discover diseases in orange groves as early as possible. The apparatus to do the forensic analysis of the leaf had already been developed and used successfully. Via a robotic arm they developed a claw to grab a leaf, cut it from the tree without damaging it and affix it onto the analysis window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They won third prize for best project!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the best for last. Penn State University is a world leader in 3D printing  research and development, and the University of Texas Arlington is hosting the fourth annual 3D printed aircraft competition to leverage the design freedoms of 3D printing technologies to improve performance.  The team was tasked by Penn State CIMP-3D to design an aircraft to compete in this competition.  The aircraft will utilize a fixed wing  to stay airborne as long as possible.  The nature of 3D printing allowed the team to rapidly prototype and quickly iterate many different designs.  This will result in some less conventional designs that push the limitations of aircraft design and 3D printing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team addressed the challenges with gusto, they bought two 3-D printers to facilitate doing as much printing as possible. During the showcase they printed a part of a wing. The printing speed, since the material printed should be as thin as possible, was so slow that the wing part gained only on inch an hour. The team had been printing around the clock for the last few weeks to test a large range of feed stocks suitable for printing model aircraft parts. In the spring another team will continue the project and participate in the competition. May the best design win!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gained quite a lot of interest, and the team had to do one presentation after another, explaining the intricate 3D modeling and how to design lightweight, yet structurally sound devices. A couple of high school teams were in awe, and no wonder, so were the judges, the team won first prize for best project of the showcase!