Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mr. President, Close the Cycle

In response to the vapid republican presidential orders I've been hearing: "Mr. President, Do your Job", "Mr. President, Finish the Dang Fence", I've been thinking: Why aren't the republicans telling him to do something, oh, I dunno, useful?

For example, we have a political monster that rears its ugly head from time to time: storage of nuclear waste.  It's an artificial problem, really; Part of Carter's various obsessions as President was the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation.  In his zeal in this regard, he made probably the most disastrous move for the United States' energy economy that any president has, ever.

On April 7, 1977, President Jimmy Carter banned the reprocessing of commercial reactor spent nuclear fuel.

Reprocessing is a neat trick. When you burn low-enriched uranium (95% 238-U, 5% 235-U) in a light water reactor, two major things happen:

  1. About half of the 235-U fissions, producing a melange of mid-periodic isotopes called "fission products"

    1. 90% of fission products decay to background radiation within a year
    2. 97% decay to background in 10 years
    3. 100% decays to background in 300 years.

  2. 238-U breeds to 239-Pu

    1. 239-Pu is an excellent reactor fuel
    2. 239-Pu is no more weaponizable than the 235-U that is normally present in nuclear fuel
    3. 239-Pu burned in a light water reactor is more valuable as energy than as weapons.
The fission products end up causing problems: they absorb neutrons that could be put towards fission, fouling up your reactivity controls, and eventually turning off your reactor.  As a result, you can only fission about 1% of your input mass - the rest becomes spent fuel.

Reprocessing is the act of removing the fission products from your fuel pellets, and recasting them into new fuel elements.  There's no need to remove the 239-Pu - in fact, you wouldn't want to.  239-Pu is an excellent fuel for light water reactors.

If we permit reprocessing, three things happen:
  1. The cost of running a nuclear plant goes marginally down; you can re-fission the same fuel over a hundred times.  
  2. The sustainability of nuclear power goes up - from 6 years at full burn to over 600
  3. Long-term storage of nuclear waste ceases to be an issue, as all of your input fuel eventually becomes fission products - most of which can be sold as industrial materials after just 1 year.
So, when I say, "Mr. President, close the Cycle", I mean permit reprocessing.  Close the loop; help get us off of foreign energy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes recipe, engineer style, made for 3"x5" card, in raw HTML:

Blueberry Pancakes
Electric or stovetop griddle 1/2 tb unslt butter 1 c AP flour 1 t baking powder 1/2 t baking soda 1/4 t kosher salt 4 t sugar 1 lightly beaten egg 1 1/2 c buttermilk 2 tb melted sweet butter 1/2 c blueberries
Preheat griddle to 375°F, or over medium-high heat        
  Whisk together in medium bowl
Whisk just to combine. Do not overmix.
Sprinkle water, if the droplets bounce, it's ready.
Brush butter onto hot griddle.
Pour batter onto griddle, 4oz drops, 2" apart
Drop blueberries in cooking batter
Cook for 1 minute, or until underside is golden brown
Flip and repeat

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Pancakes 101

Concept shamelessly stolen from Cooking for Engineers

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Search-awareness, Twitter, Blogger, IE

Added a neat little trick to the site: Now, when you come here having searched from Google, the site automagically notices and calls out the words you were searching for within its content.

Simple trick, I know. I'm going to add similar functionality for other engines soon; this was just a proof of concept. Anyway, test it out; search for "Code Monkey Bryan" on google and check the call-outs.

I also added support for my Twitter status to be in the nav bar area of the About section.

Lastly, I migrated the blog to Blogger, with the site being populated by its RSS feed. Saves me the trouble of actually implementing a blog.

Meanwhile, I still have to break off the time to improve IE support. It's presently not there.