Bright, Hot, then Cold: The City After Nuclear Blast

Dec 28th, 2016 | By | Category: Arstechnica, Nukes

Nuclear war offers a multitude of bad ways to die. The bulk of the initial deaths from a nuclear bomb come from the intense heat from the detonation itself, followed by the firestorms triggered by the blast. Extrapolating from the incendiary bomb attacks in World War II (Tokyo and Dresden being among the more infamous), […]

The Fukushima Disaster

Mar 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Articles, Lead Article, Nukes

Like many of you, I’ve been closely following the developments at the Fukushima reactor complex. Below is a set of links to articles I’ve written for the Stranger, as the events have unfolded. 3/12/2011 Explosion at Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Cesium Detected 3/14/2011 Don’t Panic Geiger Counter Readings Rise in Tokyo 3/15/2011 What’s on Fire at […]

Making the Hard Choices for Energy

Mar 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Environmental, Nukes

We’re well past the point of being able to consider only the most pleasant energy sources. Looking at the number of people on the planet, and the increasingly dire reports of damage caused by the burning of fossil fuels, we need to be realistic. These steps, by the scientific community and the Obama administration, are heartening steps in what seems the right direction.

Antarctic Winters, Not So Wintery Anymore

Jun 17th, 2008 | By | Category: Environmental, Nukes

From the ominously titled European Space Agency press release, Even the Antarctic winter cannot protect Wilkins Ice Shelf: Wilkins Ice Shelf, a broad plate of floating ice south of South America on the Antarctic Peninsula, is connected to two islands, Charcot and Latady. In February 2008, an area of about 400 kmĀ² broke off from […]

Nuclear Power: What’s Next.

Jun 6th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Articles, Nukes

Nuclear power plants were first proposed at the dawn of the cold war. It was assumed the best fuels–enriched the most for atoms releasing the most neutrons per fissioning–would forever be reserved for military use. We had bombs to build. Hundreds, thousands, millions–enough to scare the Soviets (and the Soviets to scare us.) Military first, […]

Nuclear Power: Disaster!

Jun 5th, 2008 | By | Category: Nukes

Let’s talk about Chernobyl. We enter our time machine, and roll ourselves back to the start of the cold war. We’re nuclear engineers in the Soviet Union charged with getting as many reactors operating as soon as possible. Every bit of enriched Uranium is going to bomb manufacturing, as is all the available heavy water. […]

Nuclear Power: Nuclear Waste

Jun 4th, 2008 | By | Category: Nukes

We’ve got our reactor up and humming. Our fuel is fissioning, splitting into smaller atoms and releasing neutrons. Our moderator is slowing down the neutrons, keeping them around long enough to fission the next fuel molecule. Our control rods are absorbing enough neutrons to keep the chain reaction in check. The coolant is transferring the […]

Nuclear Power: Radiation!

Jun 3rd, 2008 | By | Category: Nukes

It can’t all be good news. Yes, using a properly designed nuclear reactor, we can capture vast amounts of useful energy by helping atoms get closer to the ideal, iron. Now to the first big wrinkle, radiation. Unhappy atoms break up in a few different ways, all releasing energy. We can break it down into […]

Nuclear Power: The Reactor

Jun 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Nukes

The goal? A controlled fissioning of large nuclei. You’ll need fuel, moderation, coolant, and some control. Coolant is the easiest to grasp. The fission chain reaction in the nuclear reactor will produce heat. It’s the goal! We need some way to transfer the heat away from the reactor and put it to use. Water is […]

Nuclear Power: The Physics

May 23rd, 2008 | By | Category: Nukes

As I’ve quipped before, everything in the Universe secretly desires to be Iron. Why? Meet the nucleus: Protons and neutrons in an uneasy alliance. Neutrons, conveniently enough, are neutral in electrical charge. No problem rubbing two of them together. Protons, however, are positively charged. Remember, like charged objects don’t like sitting next to one another, […]