Deeper understanding of mechanisms of fission waste radiation in the generating storage unit

*****refer to Radioactivity_Sim’s first use: Feasibility of a radiation battery with unprocessed waste for feasibility update on this design concept******

fission radConsidering the vitrified spent fuel rod concept further, it is found that the primary alpha and beta particles produced by the fuel would certainly be absorbed immediately by the fuel rod encasement.  Neutrons and gamma radiation, however, would easily penetrate the case and enter into the surrounding matter.  The gamma radiation has the potential to create secondary photons, and the neutrons will with certainty create secondary radiation sources within that surrounding matter with predictable decay mechanisms and half lives.  For the production of long term production of visible light in the surrounding matter (as is the goal of the “atomic battery”), it is preferable to have as much secondary radiation sources from free neutrons as possible.  Therefore, the vitrification processing of the spent fuel rod for the “atomic battery” should be done as soon as is practical after extraction from the reactor.

Rod Case Irradiation

It is also important to understand and account for the fact that the fuel rod encasement will have been subjected to long term neutron bombardment in the reactor, and will therefore be itself a radiation source.

Mechanisms of Photon generation

  • Secondary interactions after electron ejection by gamma absorption or Compton scattering
  • Cherenkov and transition radiation from alpha and beta particles emitted by the irradiated fuel rod encasement or from secondary radiation sources created from neutron poisoning in the vitrification matter itself

Mechanisms of Energy loss

  • Heat production
  • Photon production outside of the optimal absorption ranges.
  • Photon resorption prior to encounter with collector cells

Loss mitigation

  • Attempt to encourage the production of the desired photon wavelengths by introducing flourescent materials into the glass


Without crunching the numbers, it seems prudent to estimate the efficiency of total nuclear energy conversion to electric energy as quite low. Only a fraction of the nuclear energy will have a mechanism to produce visible light photons and much of it will be lost to heat.  After that there will be the conversion efficiency of the photo-voltaic cells.  One might consider that the desired affect could still be achieved if the energy efficiency is too low by adding more fuel rods.  This could work up to a point, but it will be limited by heat generation.  Heat dispersal to the surrounding environment will be low due to the thick containment shell, so adding additional heat sources within the shell will increase the temperatures of the waste material significantly which could cause undesired phase changes leading to containment cracking.

Experimentation and Research Required

I say “without crunching the numbers” above as if that were a realistic feat at this time.  This is actually a very complicated system that changes characteristics over time.  I don’t think that all of the necessary research and experimentation has been completed at this point for the construction of the theoretical model that would be needed to hypothesize the light energy generated.  I can reasonably presume that the heat-generation of fission waste has been studied extensively as that characteristic is key to the design of any containment enclosures, but the other types of energy may not have been as thoroughly studied.  I expect that the following matters would need to be either investigated by experimentation or recovered from past research:

  • Radiation emissions from fission products over time, all types (likely to have been previously studied)
  • The production of radioactive nuclei within radiation and neutron bombarded fuel encasement materials (varies by original chemical composition)
  • Radiation emission from encasement materials (previously theorized once the types are radioactive nuclei are known)
  • The production of radioactive nuclei within a dielectric material(s) used for vitrification (will be material specific, each material may require study unless predictive models exist)
  • Secondary effects of gamma radiation on the dielectric material(s) used for vitrification, specifically looking for photon production and heat production (material specific, needs research)
  • Effects of gamma radiation on solar cells:  damage, photoelectric (may have been previously researched for satellite solar panels)
  • Excitation of fluorescent materials by gamma radiation/beta particles (material specific, likely needs research)
  • Physical properties of the dielectric material(s) including heat conduction, phase transitions, mechanical strengths at various temperatures, and mechanical vibration resistance for seismic survivability of any ultimate design. (material specific, some info may exist others will need research)
  • Cherenkov and transition radiation produced in the dielectric material(s) (material specific, likely needs research)
  • Modeling of total photon energy generated from these several mechanisms as a function of time to predict energy output (needs research)
  • Modeling of total heat energy generated from these several mechanisms as a function of time in order to ensure any ultimate design will remain safe. (There is likely to be previous research and design methodology)
  • Chemical decomposition over time of the dielectric and other materials caused by gamma ray electron ejections and/or interactions with alpha or beta particles which could reduce transparency or affect the mechanical characteristics (material specific, needs research)
  • Many other considerations regarding the fabrication process and integrity and safety of the structure throughout it’s production.

Alternative Configurations

There are many alternative designs which require processing the fission waste in some way.  For instance, the waste could be processed into a powder and directly introduced into molten glass.  This would increase photon production considerably.  Furthermore, the fission waste could be processed with chemical separation techniques to isolate the most active elements.  However, any type of fission waste processing is inherently risky because fission waste products are highly biohazardous and will require extraordinary safety and redundancy measures to ensure that nothing can go wrong and to ensure that all failures are safe throughout the entire process.

Raw Fission Waste Photo-Generative Storage Unit

*****refer to Radioactivity_Sim’s first use: Feasibility of a radiation battery with unprocessed waste for feasibility update on this design concept******

Part 2Here is the second part of the Atomic battery idea.  Here a spent fuel rod is successively vitrified with transparent and perhaps fluorescent materials and then tiled over with concave solar panels which are then sealed within the waste’s federally mandated containment shell.  It is a somewhat more expensive design than just a storage cask, but it will generate predictable amounts of power for a predictably long time, until either the solar cells degrade from radiation damage or the radioactivity level falls significantly.  With proper design, the storage unit could supply a modest amount of power for a very very long time.

Preliminary Concept For Conversion of Otherwise Undesired Atomic Radiation Into Photons and Then Into Electricity

Waste BatteryThe preliminary idea is to use flexible laminate sheets of Beta radiation source material, then layers of transparent dielectric (with differing permittivities to encourage transition radiation) and then a set of source facing solar cells to absorb the Cherenkov and transition photons resulting from the beta particles passage through the dielectric sheets.  This could be rolled into bundles to increase the overall power generating surface area while limiting the amount of physical volume occupied by the device.  The hope would be to develop a design that could utilize a source as close to raw fission reactor waste as possible to limit the amount of processing needed.  Presumably, this could be scaled to small low power sources or larger assemblies which could turn otherwise indefinitely stored waste into auxiliary control power at existing nuclear generation facilities.

To actually develop such a device I would need to enter into a graduate physics program at a school with nuclear physics facilities (where radioactive material samples are available), and where the university library has free access to past research papers.  Cherenkov’s original papers and other early works seem to be behind pay walls and those would need to be studied by myself in order to hypothesize the amount of power in the form of visible light that would be generated by Cherenkov and Transition effects in whichever dielectric materials that I choose to evaluate.  The hypothesis and analysis of one or more of the experiments that I would need to do to create the prototype would then presumably be my thesis, and perhaps the university could assist with any patent process as well.

As I am bereft of any activities which could advance my career, I may well choose to send a few graduate applications.

Concept Design: EHV Hall Effect Current Sensor System







First, I will assert that all ideas presented here are mine and mine alone, derived independently of any other work being done by others in this field.  That being said, this is my vision for a possible construction of a hall effect current measuring device to be used on high voltage systems.  The basic design consists of hall effect magnetic sensors cast into a solid dielectric housing surrounding a high capacity through conductor.  This construction keeps the sensors at a fixed known distance from the conductor which is key for proper calibration and consistent readings of the sensors.  Also in the same dielectric housing is a power storage suoercapacitor, a microprocessor to gather and transmit the sensor data with infrared optical pulses, and a photovoltaic cell which will receive optical power transmitted up from the base and provide power to the processor and sensors.  This dielectric housing will be connected to the base with two optical fiber links, one standard infrared fiber will carry sensor data, and the other will be a thicker optical shunt to carry high intensity light for power.  There will be no electrically conductive connection from the base to the dielectric sensor housing.  The base would contain a high intensity LED bank to transfer optical power to the sensor housing as well as an infrared photodiode to receive the sensor data.  A second processor in the base will convert the sensor data into measurements of the current through the device, and will provide fiber optic or serial communications to mutifunctuion relay devices which can use the current measurements for protection and metering functions.  This is one possible application of hall effect sensors for high voltage current measurement, which I believe could be made comparably rugged and reliable to traditional EHV oil filled current transformers, insofar as the hall effect sensor devices themselves are thoroughly tested prior to encasement.

This conceptual design can be considered GNU public, in case I or anyone else decides to hash out the design details.

As Theories Age

I’ve been noticing that some theories in physics are being misunderstood in publications and perhaps by some of the scientists working on them, and I wonder if this is a natural phenomena or something different.

Let’s take the physics theory of Superposition as an example. This theory describes what amounts to a useful statiscal framework for modeling particles which we cannot by any means fully measure. This begins with the Heisenburg uncertainty principle and propagates out from that. Occassionally averaging away as matter is aggregated. (i.e. You can measure the position and velocity of a baseball together and at high accuracy, But you could never measure both the position and velocity of any of the electrons in its atoms at the same time.) Schrodinger described a thought experiment in which the effect of the uncertainty was multiplied such that if a radioactive element decayed (which would be a time random occurance) it would trigger the release of poisonous gas into a box containing a cat. He then said that while the box was closed, and we can’t see into it, there exists some probability that the cat is dead, and some probability that the cat is fine, and as good scientists, we must account for both possibilities simultaneously, weighted by their probabilities.

The problem was that it was an attractive concept to say that while it was in the box, The cat existed as both alive and dead. That of course, is not happening, as can be proven by installing a window in the box and looking in. If you watch through the window, the cat stays alive, unless, at some point the poison is released and it dies. There would be no observable superposition state.

For certain particles in physics, they always have a probability distribution which includes all of their possible positions and momentums (often more easily dealt with as energy levels). In this way, each one can be said to be like Schrodinger’s cat, except no window can ever be installed (without shaking the foundations of modern physics, that is). Now, since no window can ever be installed, and good physicists must account for all probabilities, they will often say, that the particle exists as those probabilities Superimposed, because it doesn’t matter if they are or are not. We will always have to treat them like they are the Superposition. But it is still a fundamental and important distinction that no one can disprove that at any given time the particle can be in one and only one of the many possible states.

So when I hear about studies claiming to have proved Superposition, it grinds my gears, because the only way to do that first involves installing an impossible window, and then observing that something was in more than one state simultaneously (weighted by probability). And every time someone makes such a claim it always involves a measurement at or after the collapse of the wave function anyway, and thereby not proving anything other than statistics.

Back to my original point of this misunderstanding being a sort of natural phenomena for people, I guess I just wonder if years of oversimplifying a beautiful and complex theory could lead to something which is anethema to good science, hard core belief in certain theories. My view is that we should treat scientific theories like we treat electrons. They each have some probability of being correct based on our measurements, and as good physicists, we should account for them all (weighted by probability, of course). Then, as we get more measurements, perhaps some theories become more probable and others less so, no harm, no foul, no belief, just science.

The Endless Depths of Economic Analysis

There is apparently a factor in economic analysis called “lost pleasure” or lost consumer surplus that assigns a monetary value to the pleasure denied to people when something they are doing is being banned or regulated.  The idea is that if, for instance, the government were to ban the playing of Chess in the United States, then Chess players would suffer a certain dollar amount of “lost pleasure” which is factored into economic calculations to offset whatever economic gains there would be to banning chess.  Suppose the average chess player played 50 games of chess per year and received an estimated $10 of pleasure from each game, but as they play, they develop the illness, “Chess fingers”. which can be treated with a cream costing the players an average of $3500 per year.  Thus, per year, they gain $5000 worth of pleasure in exchange for $3500 for cream.  So economically, banning chess would result in a $1500 loss per chess player, and would thus be considered a bad idea.

Clearly, there is a lot of oversimplification going on in that chess example calculation.  For instance, how is the pleasure value of each game of chess calculated?  Why is the cream the only cost associated with chess?  What about the time lost while playing?  How can there be a disparity between the pleasure gained and the cost?  Wouldn’t people just keep playing more until the cost/benefits balanced out?

The subjective nature of this type of analysis makes it easier to challenge, and there are other complicating factors.  Suppose for a moment that playing Chess was also addictive.  This further complicates the calculation, because as the addiction progresses, the incremental pleasure gained from each new game of chess decreases, while the cost remains the same or increases.  Furthermore, there is a large point cost to transition from being a Chess player to being a non-player, this accounts for the pain associated with kicking the habit.  Also there could be Chess cessation aids like checkers or Connect Four which would have a cost.

But the issue can be even further complicated when you account for social pressures.  For instance, suppose that after discovering the addictiveness of Chess and the crippling finger illness, a group of activists create an Ad campaign which tells people that Chess players are less sexually attractive. “When you see a Chess player, you have to left swipe dat.”  This further reduces the pleasure gained from Chess playing by causing social ostricization of Chess players.  After all this, the cost of Chess playing greatly outweighs the “lost pleasure” and it becomes reasonable to consider a law banning it.

There are still some things missing from the calculation, however, if the goal is to decide whether or not to ban Chess.   There are costs associated with enforcing the ban, including extra policing needed to control or prevent the unlawful playing of Chess.  Organized crime could be attracted to the unlawful game as they could easily leverage its addictiveness for their own gains.  The cost of preventing or subduing that organized crime must be considered before banning or over-regulating Chess.  Consider the ongoing costs being paid for the war on drugs after those bans, it’s been so costly, unsuccessful, and unpopular that some states are starting to lift bans on previously banned or regulated substances.

Now, suppose all of this is taken into account somehow with good and accurate data, and projections for the future which somehow incorporate shifts in popular opinion, and it is put into a report which is given to a Senator or Congressman, for review by a committee of such.  This committee then has to consider the credibility of this report in relation to the image they want to project of themselves in order to get re-elected and/or to curry favor for a separate bill that they co-wrote, depending on how publicly visible the committee meetings are.  In fact, you could do a whole separate economic analysis for each legislators’ desicion making process, all of which could easily have far reaching effects on other societal economic issues.  (i.e. If you vote for this ban on Chess, I’ll help you pass your bill which limits interstate highway maintenance funding for states that have a speed limit less than 85 mph).

This can all get extraordinarily complicated, and many people (some that aren’t even aware of the complexity) develop ways to simplify it all down.  These are what people refer to when they talk about values or beliefs.  Some people will say, “I believe that Chess playing should be banned.” and that is an often socially acceptable way of absolving them from any responsibility to perform the actual economic analysis themselves.  So what does this do?  Well, it adds additional levels of complexity to the grander economic analysis.  The cost associated with changing these peoples’ beliefs or just opposing them now has to be considered for each new decision after their belief sets in.  For instance, suppose an economist produces a report on the effects banning Chess playing and that report is released to the public.  Did the economist factor in the effects of his own report on his analysis?  Did he expect to inspire belief in a certain percentage of people?  Did he account for the talking heads on the news channels to use his report as a rallying cry?  Or did the economist just believe that those factors would be insignificant (thereby assuming the report would go largely unnoticed)?


On Cultural Conquest

There have been countless conquests in human history and many huge empires created from them.  The methods of conquest have evolved through the years creating advanced forms of conquest which cost the conqueror less and earn them more.  One of the most advanced forms is the cultural conquest, in which the culture of the conquerer is adopted by a people of the disputed territory, eventually to the point where they adopt a sense of nationalism for a country which is not their own.  This sort of sympathetic nationalism can, on its own or with some encouragement from the conqueror, lead to popular demands for annexation or even open rebellion.

This form of conquest can be carried out with little or no risk to the conqueror.  There is no need for the conqueror to risk its own military or resources, and there is very little cost to the conqueror in the world political arena.  After all, how can the conqueror be expected to calm the hearts of a foreign people?  Furthermore, if things go very poorly, for instance, if the rebels commit egregious war crimes and brutal acts, the conqueror can easily turn its back on them, leaving them to fend for themselves against the world.  The next concern is interference from other world powers.  If another world power involves itself, then the conqueror can claim that the whole thing was something that just happenned to them, and the interferer can be made to look like a meddler in other people’s business or an imperialist in its own right.  With these things considered, cultural conquest carries no real risk to the conqueror.

As for the reward, the conqueror gets a chance to absorb any natural resources of the disputed territory and expand its influence over the people.  To maximize this benefit and minimize risk, the conqueror would theoretically prefer that the territory rebelled against its current leadership.  They would not desire peaceful annexation because it brings the new territory and people into the empire at full strength, which can make them a threat to one or more of any existing competing political parties.  If the new people lean towards one party over another, than the other party would strongly oppose the annexation, and If the annexation occurred anyway, they’d fight to limit the new people’s rights and power in the existing government.  Such a limitation of rights must inevitably result in dissatisfaction of the people in the new territory, which greatly reduces its value to the conqueror.  On the other hand, if territory were encouraged to rebel against their current government, then they would suffer all of the expected infrastructure and human cost of war.  Such that, if they won the rebellion, and then were annexed, they would enter the empire in a greatly weakened state.  The existing political parties would not be threatened, and would actually compete to win over the new territory, possibly by proposing various reconstruction programs or veteran assisstance.  Thus it is often in the conquerors’ best interest to foment rebellion then to attempt to annex an intact territory.

From all this we can conclude that cultural conquest is nearly risk free for the conqueror and can have great benefits.  But in practice it often involves a rebellion or civil war of some sort that comes at a human cost.  In the interests of world peace, cultural conquests should be discouraged or in some way prevented wherever possible.  This, however, is a lofty goal.  As I’ve already stated interfering in an ongoing cultural conquest can be very costly to the interferer in the form of money, world opinion, and even the lives of armed forces.  Thus, the problem can only be effectively dealt with by prevention, which can be exceedingly difficult and costly for the nation which owns the disputed territory.  Obviously, punishment of the disputed territory would only encourage rebellion, which leaves the proverbial carrot.  The carrot often consists of a combination of nationalist propaganda and infrastructure spending.  The big problem with the carrot is that if it doesn’t work, then all of that money would have been spent for nothing.  It can be a very high risk for the owner nation of the territory.  I’m not sure if there is a reliable way to combat one of these cultural conquests other than to maintain a strong sense of nationalism at all times, and that is something which can be a problem for any nation, and nationalism can have some serious drawbacks as well (as with any -ism).