162

I spent 6 years working as an engineer at a Nuclear Power Plant. It would be impossible for myself to start up a plant, even assuming it was shut down cleanly, the spent fuel pool was somehow not a pile of radioactive slag, and all the consumables for maintaining the site were available. We had a staff of hundreds to handle all the day to day maintenance ...


151

Not the answer to the black start (that has been already answered), but given the But the plant is also powered by solar panels, so some internal security systems may be working premise, Joe the Average would do much better if he decided to rip away the solar panels (and attached batteries) and install them in the village. A community of 500 does not ...


150

Software licencing. Software for your automated maintenance and refuelling robots was under a 999-years licence (similar to common law permanent lease) . After it ran out, the licence was automatically renewed for another 999 years, payment pending. As no payment was received during that time the licence lapsed, and the plant went into a controlled shutdown ...


62

Maybe, but you really do not want to The complete decay chain of U238 releases about 52 MeV, while U235 releases about 211 MeV. But while the energy per decay is 4 times lower and the decay rate is 6 times slower, this is offset by the fact that U238 is 100 times more common than U235 in natural uranium. So let us just assume you got hold of some depleted ...


61

Remember Y2K? Software is hard, programmers are human. If you want your readers to know exactly what went wrong, you can babble at length about data types or speculative branching or null references or race conditions. But I propose that if your characters don't know what broke or how to fix it, then maybe your readers shouldn't either. The software has a ...


56

There are a couple of reasons: Fission scales down better. Some SNAP reactors are tiny, smaller than a trash can. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG's) can be made even smaller. Fission based "batteries" are even possible. Small and/or low power applications will favor fission. Fission generators are mechanically simpler and more robust. This is ...


50

Not so likely Besides Joe not knowing the first thing about electricity let alone nuclear power the main issue here is to black start a high power plant without significant available electricity to start with. So, as Wikipedia tells us, "a black start is the process of restoring an electric power station or a part of an electric grid to operation without ...


46

No, probably. Here's why: Nuclear power plants will be unlikely to go into a meltdown scenario in the event of operators' absence. After several days, most will shut themselves down if they have not received maintenance. However it is plausible that a lack of operators combined with some hitherto undiagnosed problem with the cooling cycle or systems could ...


39

In this case, it'd probably be common practice to use a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR pronounced "lifter"). It's a kind of Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) that enriches Thorium (~3x more abundant than Uranium in Earth's crust) in a liquid salt and then burns the product of that enriched material (now U-233) in a liquid salt. Or perhaps some other (even ...


35

In addition to the other very valid concerns raised in other answers, the other massive problem here is what to do with all of that 1.21GW of power. Assuming you don't have a DeLorean sitting around that can sponge up the leftovers, and also assuming that the electrical grid is trashed because of, you know, the apocalypse and all, then there is the much ...


35

You don't Not without handwaving. Teenage and 8 kW This is a first issue. I don't know any country that would allow teenagers to operate power plants on their own. High school teenagers usually can't even become licensed electricians. There was a time when you bought electrical appliances without the plug, and installed plug on your own, at home. But ...


34

There are lot of neutron sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_source Not all of them is useful for large scale transmutation since their neutron flux is many orders of magnitude smaller than that of nuclear reactors. However, spallation neutron sources have higher flux than reactors and don't require radioisotopes (They are high energy particle ...


32

You don't need any special materials to make a reactor last a long time. The Gabon natural reactor consists of uranium deposits in sandstone. Approximately 2 billion years ago they went critical. This is because U235 has a shorter half life than U238. So 2 billion years ago there was relatively more of it, and it could go critical with natural water ...


30

Short-term, it's probably safer if they don't shutdown. When the generator no longer produces electric power, the cooling of the residual nuclear reactions depends on power coming from the grid - if the grid is down, the cooling fails and when the backup generators run out of fuel, you may get a steam explosion. This doesn't necessarily mean a release of ...


28

Geothermal heating looks closer to "perfectly safe" than uranium, is achievable with no moving parts, is long lasting (in the timescale +1000 years)


27

I have some interest in nuclear powered… well, spaceships mainly, but some of the problems apply to cars too. Radiation is your enemy. It's not just "Oh we need some shielding, slap some lead around it!" kind of enemy, it's "If your body absorbs ten joules per kilogram of body weight, you die. Your modern car engine produces around fifteen thousand joules ...


24

Of course you could, but it's a VERY bad idea... With enough time and money, such an engineering feat as that you have just described is surmountable. You could certainly design and build a nuclear power plant that does this, but no sane person who has the expertise to design a nuclear reactor would ever do this. It is the equivalent of spending a fortune ...


23

It bears having a written answer that fusion reactors absolutely cannot synthesize heavy isotopes, if the synthesis can only happen during fission. That is to say, some heavy isotopes can be made by using a fusion reactor for neutron bombardment, like Cobalt-60, but other things like Cesium 137 can only be effectively produced by fission of uranium. That ...


23

Bussard ramjets have a bunch of major and probably insurmountable problems. The principle issue is "scoop drag", caused by interaction of the ramscoop's magnetic field with the interstellar medium (ISM). This quite sharply limits the top speed of any ramscoop driven ship... I don't have the figures to hand, but they top out at something like .16c to .2c ...


22

They already have I'm not kidding. Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator (alternate wiki link and PDF paper not behind a paywall) is a really curious species. It is a "single species ecosystem" which lives in deep fissures underground where D. audaxviator makes up so much of the total genetic content of the ecosystem that we have to consider that the ...


20

The two primary drivers of Uranium fission reactors are the need for fissile material for nuclear weapons, and the ability to make compact reactors for powering nuclear submarines. Point two also explains why light water reactors are the primary design of existing reactors in the United States; they all evolved from the engineering knowledge and experience ...


19

Currently there are Small Module Reactors which use fission to generate an electricity output of less than 300 MWe. One of these, the NuScale produces 50,000 kilowatts/hour and is 76' by 15'. https://www.hpschapters.org/florida/6spring.pdf NASA is working on low-energy nuclear reaction(LENR) technology which they hope eventually to use to power cars, ...


18

See this debunking of the one in the news. Thorium is very slow to change the output on: you can’t just throttle it, but it would be putting out full power full time. For this reason alone, making it the primary power supply of a vehicle is impractical. See the video for more points that might still apply to your more realistic design. Also, will your “...


18

For many technical reasons using nuclear power for individual houses is not a great idea. With nuclear power you either get too few energy to power a house (RTG's), or way too many and it's incredibly wasteful (fission, fusion). And while operating an already built nuclear reactor is not that hard - sailors do in nuclear ships and submarines, and they don't ...


17

There is a fundamental mistake in the question. A nuclear powerplant CANNOT be without power for very long without a catastrophic incident. The reactor vat itself will be shut down safely, but that's not the issue here. the REAL issue is the radioactive fuel handling pools. These are pools of water containing the depleted radioactive fuel that are remnants ...


16

They could use radioisotope thermal generators like those that were used as energy generators for satellites in the past. The one that was used on the cassini spacecraft (picture in the link above) looks as if it might be transportable with a horse or at least with a cart drawn by one or two horses. Three of those power sources combined (I first missed the ...


16

This may not be what you were originally thinking, but perhaps some sort of natural disaster strikes which disables the plant. Even if the structure of the plant is made of an indestructible material, it may be vulnerable to less direct damage such as flooding. For a real life example, we can look at the Fukushima-Daiichi accident which happened in 2011. ...


15

There have indeed been fission reactors used in orbit: both the Soviet Union and NASA launched experimental fission reactors on satellites - a Soviet one even malfunctioned and ended up deorbiting above Canada, contaminating a zone with its fission fuel, which ended up with the Soviet Union paying compensation to Canada. For example, the TOPAZ II massed ...


15

xkcd covered this a while back, actually. It turns out that water is an excellent radiation shield (which is one reason the spent fuel is put in them in the first place). This means that if you swim near the top of a pool, you're going to be just fine (and might, in fact, receive an even lower dose of radiation than if you stood around outside the pool). ...


15

Your design seems like an absolute safety nightmare. I'll also note that your safety idea of the little fuel pellets separating when the air flow is removed rather depends on them not being so hot that they start melting, which rather defeats the whole point of the exercise. The underlying idea, though, that if you remove the tiresome need to avoid melting ...


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