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Does a new approach to nuclear make economic sense?


Does a new approach to nuclear make economic sense?

Small, mass-produced reactors could be the future, but only if they get cheaper.

by Kate Prengaman - May 30 2013, 11:00am PDT

Today, every nuclear power plant is unique, custom-built and run by site-specifically trained employees. This makes reactor construction expensive and, some argue, less safe because repairs require custom parts and one-off solutions. In recent years, nuclear energy advocates have been promoting an alternative—smaller, modular reactors that could be mass-produced. These cheaper, smaller, and standardized units could be a power solution for industries and municipalities that are looking to lower their carbon dioxide footprint.

But a paper by Ahmed Abdulla, Inês Lima Azevedo, and M. Granger Morgan finds that the small module reactor solution may not actually be cost effective yet.


Several American companies are actively developing this technology, but without a sample of active small reactors to study, there was no hard economic data for the researchers to use. Instead, the researchers careful quantified the average opinions of industry experts. The researchers presented 16 experts with a variety of installation scenarios and asked them to estimate the cost per kilowatt of reactor capability and the time required for construction.

As you might expect, opinions varied widely. Although the experts remain anonymous, most work for companies developing smaller reactor technology. The median cost estimates for a kilowatt of electricity produced by a single 45 MWe reactor ranged from $4,000 to $16,000. For comparison, the cost estimates for 1000-MWe large light water reactor ranged from $2,600 to $6,600.


PNAS, May, 2013. DOI :10.1073/pnas.1300195110

Our Endangered Nuclear Weaponeers


Our Endangered Nuclear Weaponeers

No more nukes means no more experts, and their talents have kept us safe.

May 30, 2013

It takes a nuclear weaponeer to stop a nuclear weaponeer. And I should know.

In the 1990s, I designed nuclear bombs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In the 2000s at Los Alamos, I ran one of the largest programs to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, directing hundreds of professionals who had worked for decades on all aspects of nuclear weapons. The background, experience and judgment of these weaponeers were responsible for successfully mitigating and preventing various nuclear threats, details of which are still classified.

The U.S. is now in danger of forever losing this talent that keeps the nation safe. That is a disturbing development, because the threat isn't going away. Iran is producing enriched uranium, North Korea in February detonated its third nuclear weapon since 2006, and terrorists continually seek this ultimate capability. The risk endures and is growing.

Policy luminaries such as former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Secretary of State George Shultz have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration embraces this goal. In a perfect world with complete transparency, a nuclear-free planet would be the ideal for ensuring peace.


To eradicate the nuclear threat, America needs to employ the world's best nuclear weaponeers. And although it seems paradoxical, the only way to do that is to maintain a nuclear stockpile—perhaps a small one, but a real one. We can't rely on models, simulations or non-nuclear substitutes to give first-stringers experience. There are too many subtleties involved with nuclear weapons to take a chance.


Ketamine cousin rapidly lifts depression without side effects

Source: Medical Xpress

GLYX-13, a molecular cousin to ketamine, induces similar antidepressant results without the street drug side effects, reported a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that was published last month in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Major depression affects about 10 percent of the adult population and is the second leading cause of disability in U.S. adults, according to the World Health Organization. Despite the availability of several different classes of antidepressant drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), 30 to 40 percent of adults are unresponsive to these medications. Moreover, SSRIs typically take weeks to work, which increases the risk for suicide.


GLYX-13 and ketamine produced rapid acting (1 hour) and long-lasting (24 hour) antidepressant-like effects in the rats. Fluoxetine, an SSRI that typically takes from 2-4 weeks to show efficacy in humans, did not produce a rapid antidepressant effect in this study. As expected, the scrambled GLYX-13 showed any antidepressant-like effects. The researchers observed none of the aforementioned side effects of ketamine in the GLYX-13-treated rats.


The results are consistent with data from a recent Phase 2 clinical trial, in which a single administration of GLYX-13 produced statistically significant reductions in depression scores in patients who had failed treatment with current antidepressants. The reductions were evident within 24 hours and persisted for an average of 7 days. After a single dose of GLYX-13, the drug's antidepressant efficacy nearly doubled that seen with most conventional antidepressants after 4-6 weeks of dosing. GLYX-13 was well tolerated and it did not produce any of the schizophrenia-like effects associated with other NMDA receptor modulating agents.


Read more: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-05-ketamine-cousin-rapidly-depression-side.html

Feds Want Power Grid Plans for Solar Flares

Source: Courthouse News Service

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has directed electrical grid regulators to address the impact of solar flares on electrical grid operation, according to a new regulation.

The FERC is requiring the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to submit reliability standards that would help protect the power grid from failure in case of a major "geomagnetic disturbance."

Geomagnetic disturbances are caused by "space weather," a term used to describe changes in plasma, magnetic fields, radiation and other matter that is carried through space by solar winds. Geomagnetic disturbances are sometimes called solar flares, which are related to the disturbances.

The FERC, under the direction of the Department of Energy and the Federal Power Act, asked the NERC to implement its directive in two parts. First, the NERC has six months from the rule's effective date to submit "one or more reliability standards that require owners and operators of the bulk-power system to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate the effects of geomagnetic disturbances consistent with the reliable operation of the bulk-power system," according to the FERC's action.

The second stage gives the NERC 18 months to develop one or more reliability standards that require owners and operators of facilities connected to the power grid to conduct initial and "on-going" assessments of the potential impact of "benchmark" geomagnetic disturbances on their equipment and on the grid as a whole.


Read more: http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/05/30/58039.htm

One of the most abstract fields in math finds application in the 'real' world


One of the most abstract fields in math finds application in the 'real' world

By Julie Rehmeyer
Web edition: May 20, 2013

Every pure mathematician has experienced that awkward moment when asked, “So what’s your research good for?” There are standard responses: a proud “Nothing!”; an explanation that mathematical research is an art form like, say, Olympic gymnastics (with a much smaller audience); or a stammered response that so much of pure math has ended up finding application that maybe, perhaps, someday, it will turn out to be useful.

That last possibility is now proving itself to be dramatically true in the case of category theory, perhaps the most abstract area in all of mathematics. Where math is an abstraction of the real world, category theory is an abstraction of mathematics: It describes the architectural structure of any mathematical field, independent of the specific kind of mathematical object being considered. Yet somehow, what is in a sense the purest of all pure math is now being used to describe areas throughout the sciences and beyond, in computer science, quantum physics, biology, music, linguistics and philosophy.


David Spivak of MIT has perhaps the boldest vision for category theory’s potential. In a paper posted February 27 on arXiv.org, he argues that all scientific thought can be expressed in a structured way using category theory. Both ideas and the data supporting them can be encoded in the universal language of category theory, allowing scientists to present a database with their full work. Spivak even imagines a Facebook-like interface with people’s full thoughts and experiences presented in a category theoretic database that would connect people whose databases overlap.


Via http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2013/05/in_the_news.html

Mars Curiosity Radiation Findings To Be Announced Thursday May 30


MSL Radiation Findings To Be Announced

By Keith Cowing on May 27, 2013 4:02 PM. 0 Comments

NASA Discusses Curiosity Radiation FIndings

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (18:30 UTC) Thursday, May 30, to present new findings from the Mars Science Laboratory Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) aboard the rover Curiosity."

Diurnal Variations of Energetic Particle Radiation Dose Measured by the Mars Science Laboratory Radiation Assessment Detector, adsabs.harvard.edu

"Further, we show that the variation in the E dose rate is very likely due to the variation of column mass, as measured by the pressure sensor on the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), driven by the thermal tide. While changes in dose were expected from changes in altitude or season, the discovery of a diurnal variation was not anticipated, although it should have been reasonably expected in hindsight."

MSL-RAD Radiation Environment Measurements, adsabs.harvard.edu

"RAD's cruise measurements are a unique data set that provide a reasonable simulation of what might be encountered by a human crew headed for Mars or for some other destination in deep space. RAD successfully operated for 220 days of the 253 day journey to Mars."

The Radiation Environment on the Martian Surface and during MSL's Cruise to Mars, adsabs.harvard.edu

"Even with the level of shielding inside MSL, these solar energetic particle events contributed significantly to the cumulative dose and dose equivalent. Finally, we will present the first-ever measurements of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars."

Saudi Foreign Minister calls Iran’s nuclear program danger to region’s security

Source: Associated Press

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has warned against the danger of Iran’s nuclear program to the region’s security and said Iran should not threaten its neighbors since countries in the region harbor no ill-intentions to the Islamic Republic.

“We stress the danger of the Iranian nuclear program to the security of the whole region,” Prince Saud said Saturday in a joint news conference with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in the city of Jiddah.

Turning to Syria, he also that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime should have no role in the country’s future.

Saudi Arabia announced last week the arrest of 10 more members of an alleged Iranian spy ring.

Read more: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/saudi-foreign-minister-calls-irans-nuclear-program-danger-to-regions-security/2013/05/25/f6a03b3c-c53d-11e2-9642-a56177f1cdf7_story.html

C-sections tied to child obesity

Source: Reuters

More babies born via cesarean section grow up to be heavy kids and teens than those delivered vaginally, according to a new study of more than 10,000 UK infants.

Eleven-year-olds delivered by C-section, for example, were 83 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their vaginally-born peers once other related factors - such as their mother's weight and how long they were breastfed - were taken into account.

The findings are in line with a recent review of nine earlier studies that also found a link between C-sections and childhood obesity (see Reuters Health story of December 12, 2012 here: http://reut.rs/TV6GwC ).

With C-sections, "there may be long-term consequences to children that we don't know about," said Dr. Jan Blustein, who led the new study at the New York University School of Medicine.


Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/24/us-c-sections-tied-to-child-obesity-idUSBRE94N0NS20130524

China Bluntly Tells North Korea to Enter Nuclear Talks

Source: New York Times

The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, bluntly told a North Korean envoy Friday that his country should return to diplomatic talks designed to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, according to a state-run Chinese news agency.

“The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and lasting peace on the peninsula is what the people want and also the trend of the times,” Mr. Xi said in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People with Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, a personal envoy of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the China News Service reported.

Vice Marshal Choe, who has been in Beijing for three days on a mission to repair the prickly relationship between North Korea and China, handed Mr. Xi a letter from Mr. Kim. The contents were not disclosed.

In telling the North it should return to the negotiating table, Mr. Xi appeared to strike a stern tone, saying, “The Chinese position is very clear: no matter how the situation changes, relevant parties should all adhere to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, persist in safeguarding its peace and stability, and stick to solving problems through dialogue and consultation.”


Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/world/asia/china-tells-north-korea-to-return-to-nuclear-talks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

LDP Alters Abe’s Constitutional Pledge in Japan Election Plans

Source: Bloomberg

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is changing its strategy for rewriting the country’s pacifist constitution ahead of parliamentary elections in July, a party executive said.

The LDP will omit from its platform Abe’s pledge to first make it easier to overhaul the constitution by lowering the bar for enacting amendments, party policy chief Sanae Takaichi said today in Tokyo. Abe has repeatedly called for changing Article 96 of the charter to allow parliament to pass amendments by a simple majority rather than the current two-thirds.

“This isn’t about what may or may not come of Article 96, but about constitutional reform, which is firmly written into the platform,” Takaichi told reporters.


The prime minister advocates revising the constitution for the first time as part of plans to strengthen the military as Japan confronts a territorial conflict with China and threats from North Korea’s nuclear program. The U.S.-drafted document was imposed on Japan after World War II and the LDP has advocated changing it since the party was founded in 1955.


Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-24/ldp-alters-abe-s-constitutional-pledge-in-japan-election-plans.html

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