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May 10, 2011 12:49 AM   Subscribe

War is Boring's Steve Weintz has a two-part article up on mobile nuclear reactors, called Atoms In Motion: Portable Reactors (part two here). The links referenced cover planes, trains, and automobiles (though calling the last one an "automobile" might be stretching the definition a little.)
posted by Harald74 (8 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's an interesting blog, thanks.
posted by joannemullen at 1:42 AM on May 10, 2011


There's a lot of research going into the idea of small, portable nuclear reactors for civilian use - see this Economist article from last December. One company referenced in the article is TerraPower, and one if its investors is Bill Gates.
posted by dowcrag at 4:07 AM on May 10, 2011


The portable reactors so far developed suffer from two key shortcomings: to get enough oomph in such a small volume the nuclear fuel must be weapons-grade, and they just don’t produce that much power. Two or three megawatts seems like a lot, until you realize that most of that is heat.

Just what the world needs: more weapons grade plutonium in private hands.
posted by three blind mice at 5:04 AM on May 10, 2011


Small fission devices don't kill people etc.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:41 AM on May 10, 2011


most of that is heat

Is there a nuclear reactor design that is not extracting energy from heat?
posted by garlic at 7:13 AM on May 10, 2011


This device is pure unadulterated scary.
posted by Splunge at 8:16 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there a nuclear reactor design that is not extracting energy from heat?

I think in theory there are ways you can extract electrical energy more directly from various types of radiation (basically photoelectric cells that are designed for higher energy levels, e.g. gamma rays) but I don't know of any practical designs that use this. Even the no-moving-parts reactors for deep space use take advantage of thermocouples.

Here's a paper that may be relevant if you're interested: Gamma ray driven photovoltaic cells: an interface between nuclear and semiconductor physics. (I can only get to the abstract from where I am right now.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:10 AM on May 10, 2011


This device is pure unadulterated scary.

isn't it just? When I first heard about it I halfway believed it had been made up as a embodiment of all the ridiculousness of the Cold War.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on May 10, 2011


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