Fusion Message Board

In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.

Subject: Early Fission's COP
Date: Oct 16, 4:29 pm
Poster: Richard Hull

On Oct 16, 4:29 pm, Richard Hull wrote:

I wonder if I am the only one wondering about early fission's COP. I have long wondered about early fission works record on Coefficent of Performance.

The first pile (Chicago-Fermi) used natural uranium. The costs in energy and cash to create the infrastructure there were very small for the power out (if looked at it over the long haul). The natural uranium in the thousands of pounds was simply refined to the oxide and stuffed in graphite blocks with control rods in place. All that was needed to get ever more power is remove more and more rods.

Now the deliverable nuclear device or any modern heavy power reactor looked, in 1943, like it was going to have to have a a number of pounds of U-235 or Plutonium to work in a small enough size to be deliverable (bomb) or produce many megawatts of power (power reactor).

How many trillions of KWH were expended over the 2 years of hard effort at Oakridge and Hanaford? How many millions of gallons of oil and Tons of Coal were needed to make all of the electricity, haul all of the ore, refine it, and deliver it to these plants to produce the pounds of U-235 or Plutonium to make the first 3 A-bombs. 1 to show 2 to go. (~18-25Kt yields each). Now total their yields. Would if be more or less than the sum of the energy used to create the materials from mine to device? I figure someone figured it all out, but I have never seen actual figures.

Of course, today, the mining is no longer an issue and there is little or no refinement ala the manhattan project era. The enrichment of reactor grade U-235 stops at about 20% or less. Bombs are hydrogen with breeder made plutonium A bomb initiators. So the COP of modern reactors and weapons is very good indeed. I don't think the US ever used Plutonium in a for cash, sell to the public, power reactor to my knowledge.

Fuel wise, this is the cheapest solution as plutonium can be bred in breeder reators. These are a very dirty word here in the US. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, that we eschewed such activities for public power reactors and stayed with low grade enriched uranium.

Either way, the modern fission reactor is a tremendous net power producer.

It would be great to see fusion workout even 10% as well as fission. Of course, fission has the black eye from a waste storage/disposal standpoint and the groin kick of TMI and Chernobyl. This, in spite of countless millions of low cost, non-polluting, megawatts of safe power produced since the 50's.

Richard Hull