Plenty of clean base electrical power can be had…

A pair of MIT trained nuclear scientists founded Transatomic Power.  They have developed a molten salt reactor that uses the nuclear waste produced by fresh water reactors for fuel.

Instead of wasting all that potential energy, we could being using to power these inherently safer reactors that don’t produce weapons grade nuclear material as a by product.

As Dr. Pournelle said, “…with what we spent in Iraq we could build nuclear power plants and space solar power satellites and tell the Arabs to drink their oil.”

The plants developed by Transatomic Power could deliver a steady supply of carbon free electricity that could power our industrial base, expanded use of electric cars, and provide light and heat to millions of Americans cheaply, reliably, and safely.

 

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Rocket City Rednecks

I discovered this show by reading one of Travis Talyor’s non-fiction books, A New American Space Plan.   While this post is about the TV show, pick up this book as well.  It’s a well laid out case of why American should be serious about getting into space again and how to do it.

Also take the time to watch the show, Rocket City Rednecks, either by streaming or on optical disk.   This show is about five self-identified Rednecks from Huntsville, AL, two of which are actual rocket scientists from NASA who actually build working gear.  Really cool gear that works.  OK, it works most of the time, but even when they fail, they learn from their mistakes so then can do it better the next time.  That is really one of the important lessons.  It’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from it.   Most of the gear is built in Travis’ father’s garage.   Charles Travis is a retired NASA machinist who worked on the Apollo program, and one of the five Rednecks who star in the show.

I’ve watched about a third of the first season so far, and they have built some really nifty gear so far.  These include a still in order to build a moonshine fueled rocket, the actual rocket, a balloon based observation platform, a working submarine, a radio telescope array using 18″ satellite dishes, under vehicle armor capable of withstanding an IED blast (they drove the pickup truck away afterwards), and a working “Iron Man” suit, that had armor capable of  stopping 9mm handgun rounds, lifting over 100 pounds with a single arm and fired rockets!

Just to add to the overall coolness of this, most of their projects are done over a single weekend with a budget of about $1000.  Keep in mind that three of these Rednecks are current or former NASA employees.  The two active ones have eight advanced degrees in science between them (Travis has five post-graduate degrees.  For those of you who know me, yes, that is one more than Amy currently has).  Rog (Rednect #4) doesn’t have any advanced degrees, but he does have a genius level IQ, and Michael (Travis’ nephew) is mechanically inclined and studying to be a machinist.   Still, if you know basic work working, basic welding, how to solder two wire together, and some basic programming, you and your friends could try some of this stuff.

Which is kinda the whole idea of the show.  To get kids off the XBox and out there building go carts, rockets, radio sets and other cool gear.

This is the kind of show my dad would have loved.  He was 22 year veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, and would have been out teaching kids how to to build the things the Rednecks are building.

Small Nuclear Reactors

The DoE is pushing for funding small modular nuclear reactors (SMR).

These SMRs are designed to be pre-assembled in a factory and shipped to location.  They would range in size from 50 MW units to 300 MW units.

These plants could come on line relatively quickly, providing a “carbon free” source of cheap, domestic electrical power that would benefit American homeowners, business owners and provide a competitive edge to US manufacturers.

Using WiFi signals to charge your gadgets

I really like this device from RCA.  It taps WiFi signals and converts the signal to electricity.

The claim is, using only WiFi signals at CES, it was able to charge a BlackBerry from 30% to full in about 90 minutes.  The Airnergy Charger has a battery, so it can suck up power while you are getting your caffeine fix at Starbucks and use to charge your gadget later on.  RCA says that the Airnergy Charger will be available this summer for a mere $40, which is about half  the cost of the Mophie Charger I’m currently using.

First new Nuclear Reactor in the US in 10 years is on track.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is bringing a new Nuclear Reactor on line, on schedule and on budget, in order to provide clean, “carbon free”, electricity in useful quanties, to their customers.

Clean and safe nuclear power is supported as the “green option” by serious leaders of the environmental movement, including Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, and Britain’s Bishop Hugh Montefiore, a longtime board member of Friends of the Earth.

Of course, there are uneducated watermelon groups opposing this step toward clean, American engergy indepence, including the obviously confused “Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.”

The World’s First floating nuclear power plant

It’s not the one the Russians are building. Given the Russian’s record of failure with nuclear reactor’s and generally poor environmental record, any buyer’s are doing so at their own risk.

The world’s first floating nuclear power plant was built in the early 1960s by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It was the MH-1A Sturgis, a converted WWII Liberty ship.  The BBC falsely reported that the Russians were building the first floating nuclear power plant back in 2006, and other news agencies are still repeating their mistake.

PG&E to get electricity from space!

Pacific Gas & Electric is seeking approval from state regulators for an agreement to purchase power over a 15-year period from Solaren Corp., an 8-year-old company based in Manhattan Beach, CA. Their goal is start beaming down power in 2016.

Solaren Corp. wants to build big solar panels in orbit and then beam the energy down to the surface.  This isn’t new technology. The concept is decades old.  Science Fiction author Larry Niven mentioned it in his 1990 short story, The Return of William Proximire

One of the common objections against this clear source of electrical energy has been from environmental groups who claim the area the energy is received (typically in the microwave frequency range) would not be optimal for animal life.