Nuclear explosion powerplant

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Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby >-) » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:08 pm UTC

You have an unlimited supply of thermonuclear weapons, each with a cost of $1 million and with a yield of 1 MT (~4E15 J).
Disregarding safety concerns and public outcry, design a powerplant which detonates the bomb and generates electricity.
The powerplant should be both economical, and extract a reasonable proportion of the energy released.
Also, use as basic technologies as possible (no supermaterials)

Below is my (untested) design
Spoiler:
The explosion and steam from the water pushes the piston upward, where it gets caught at the peak height by the ratchet system. The piston can then be released slowly in order to generate electricity.
The chamber does not get destroyed because it's buried under kilometers of bedrock.
Image


Any ideas or suggestions?
Last edited by >-) on Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:13 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Whizbang » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:12 pm UTC

A nuclear combustion engine?

Seems legit.

Try also keeping a large number of people and animals nearby. Eventually you should get someone with superpowers that you can use to generate energy as well.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Xanthir » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:24 pm UTC

Use your unlimited supply of nukes to threaten neighboring countries into giving you power for greatly reduced rates in "mutually beneficial trade deals".
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 23, 2015 3:20 pm UTC

>-) wrote:The chamber does not get destroyed because it's buried under kilometers of bedrock.


This part is amusing.

Underground tests are a thing. Your design would suffer serious issues, including, but not limited to the following:

1. The chamber will be destroyed. Just because there is a lot of rock doesn't mean your chamber can't be destroyed. We're talking about ludicrous forces here.
2. The plug will get blown to bits. That part does not have endless bedrock behind it, and in any case, the face of it is going to rapidly ablate.
3. You need one helluva rope.
4. The water is going to be superheated steam pretty rapidly.
5. The whole engine will become extremely hot, in radioactive terms. Underground blasts keep the radioactive products around in large part. Sure, you'll have some fallout from the shattered bits of your plug getting tossed about, but a lot will accrue in the local area. Doing this on the regular will result in increased radiation.
6. It will be stupid expensive to run. $1mil buys a lot of power. If you're going to just not care about public safety and outcry, there are cheaper ways to produce it.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby >-) » Wed Sep 23, 2015 3:56 pm UTC

1. I was kind of hoping the plug would relieve the pressure, saving the chamber
3. Yes, but luckily a 7 meter radius cable out of 2800 Maraging steel will withstand the 400 GN of gravitational force
4. Actually I went with a radius of 100 because I was afraid with anything larger, I wouldn't get any steam at all. It takes 9E15 joules to boil the 4.18 million cubic meters of water in the sphere, and the bomb has only around 2E15 J in thermal energy.
6. Suppose I spent another $9 million on the facility. $10 million would be 100 GWh at $.1 per kWh, or 3.6e14 J. If I capture just 10% of the energy from the nuke, I have 4E14 J.

Anyway, I've come up with an alternate concept, which involves nuking a deep lake repeatedly in order create a heat gradient. I assume there's a good way to convert this heat gradient to electricity, though I've only ever head the word "thermocouple".
Spoiler:
The best part is, if you can't find a lake, you can make one using your nukes.
Image

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:21 pm UTC

Well, it's inherently just a crapton of pressure, and rock tends to have fracture lines, unequal stresses, god knows what else. It's not really a perfect pressure chamber, and you're talking about a *lot* of pressure.

If done near a fault, you may have additional fun side effects.

$9mil to construct a facility under kilometers of bedrock is not actually a great deal of money(I am presuming you mean 1km additional shaft length, not a shaft the same length as the plug, which would work poorly). Making and handling a 1km long plug would also be challenging and expensive.

Nuking a lake to create a heat gradient is possible, but honestly, you're better off tapping into volcanic action/hot springs if you want to do geothermal.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Nicias » Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:03 pm UTC


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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:50 pm UTC

I'd just use a relatively small number of bombs in Orion type lifters to place solar power stations in orbit and beam the power back to earth using microwaves.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:55 am UTC

Hey, I see you have loads of hot plasma there. Why not use some of these babies, maybe inline with steam generators.
EdgarJPublius wrote:I'd just use a relatively small number of bombs in Orion type lifters to place solar power stations in orbit and beam the power back to earth using microwaves.

There are some nutty people on the internet, but if your components are durable enough (??), you can them get to space super cheap, and no fallout!
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby >-) » Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:10 am UTC

Hmm, it seems, unless i'm mistaken, that geothermal plants are only limited by how fast they can generate energy from the heat difference. This means the lake idea won't be very useful.

I'm not sure how I would convert a nuclear blast to plasma for the MHD. I still have the containment problem, and now I need to manufacture plasma too -- I suppose if I fill the blast chamber with some sort of gas it'll get turned into plasma by the explosion?

I'm also wondering -- is it possible to contain a nuclear blast with a magnetic field? In a vacuum, everything left of the blast will be metal and uranium ions, which can be controlled with magnetic fields. Although I guess that just changes the problem from containing the blast to containing the magnets.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Xanthir » Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:52 am UTC

>-) wrote:I'm also wondering -- is it possible to contain a nuclear blast with a magnetic field? In a vacuum, everything left of the blast will be metal and uranium ions, which can be controlled with magnetic fields. Although I guess that just changes the problem from containing the blast to containing the magnets.

And the radiation. Alpha and beta radiation are charged (oppositely), but gamma is just photons.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:52 am UTC

The blast will heat up anything it's passing through, ionizing a lot of it. Also, x-rays (and some gammas). Gawdawful buttloads of x-rays. Atmosphere is going to be leaking in, unless herculean efforts are made, or it's off-planet. You'll have your plasma.

Containment is a solved problem. It's underground. Failures have been rare enough, and pretty much non-issues for most folk when combined with remoteness. Unlike problems with kitty litter brands! (or if you prefer, hiring and training standards)
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Sep 24, 2015 2:07 pm UTC

Detonating the bomb in water is the right idea -- there are very few things as awesome or as readily available as water for containing this sort of thing -- but you should probably use the water itself as a working fluid rather than trying to lift a counterweight.

Find yourself a spent salt mine with a wide, deep, sloping cross-section. Line the deep end with concrete and gravel and any other cheap, dense material you can find. Fill it halfway with water, so that the deep end still has an air pocket remaining but will have a water level sufficient to almost completely contain the blast.

nuke power generator 1.png
nuke power generator 1.png (1.53 KiB) Viewed 5965 times

Halfway up the chamber, install a series of water-driven turbines which are capable of generating power when turned either way:

nuke power generator 2.png
nuke power generator 2.png (1.6 KiB) Viewed 5965 times

The bomb will be dropped into the deep end of the chamber and detonated. Due to the air pocket, there will not be significant overpressure on the ceiling of the chamber (at least compared to a fully-water-filled chamber) and the bomb's blast will displace a great deal of water, sending it surging up the sloping floor of the chamber past and through the turbines:

nuke power generator 3.png
nuke power generator 3.png (2.48 KiB) Viewed 5965 times

Optionally, dam-like walls can then be closed between and above the turbines, containing the water above the turbines and allowing it to be passed through the turbines gradually in order to recapture energy:

nuke power generator 4.png
nuke power generator 4.png (1.68 KiB) Viewed 5965 times

This allows optimal capture of kinetic energy produced by the bomb without excessively stressing the containment chamber.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Kalium_Puceon » Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:20 am UTC

What about trying to use the EMP from the blast to create a current in a conductor? With a sufficiently tuned capacitor bank, could one not capture the EM energy released on top of whatever kind of combustion-engine/nuclear-dam system is used?
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 30, 2015 7:45 pm UTC

EMP isn't well suited to that. It's like trying to capture eletricity from lightning strikes. You want a nice, steady flow, not a brief spike.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sardia » Thu Oct 01, 2015 3:38 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:EMP isn't well suited to that. It's like trying to capture eletricity from lightning strikes. You want a nice, steady flow, not a brief spike.

Its a nuclear bomb, be glad all you get is a brief spike.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:14 pm UTC

I'm not sure whether it would be possible to design a containment chamber capable of transmuting that brief spike into a sustained flow...

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Whizbang » Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:19 pm UTC

Supercapacitors?

Note that I know nothing about supercapacitors other than what is in that post so I am most likely way off-base.

[Edit]
Also, what if we take apart the nuclear bombs and build giant Arc Reactors instead? Tony Stark was able to build one in a cave using scrap parts, after all.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:25 pm UTC

It's rapid charging we need, more than rapid discharging.

What the hell IS an arc reactor supposed to be, anyway? Some kind of steady-state fusion device? And for that matter, has anyone ever figured out what those repulsor thrusters are supposed to be? I'd assume they're using air as a reaction mass, but is it an electrostatic plasma thruster or what?

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Neil_Boekend » Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:52 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:What the hell IS an arc reactor supposed to be, anyway? Some kind of steady-state fusion device?

I have a strong suspicion that the arc reactor is supposed to be a gorgeous version of a fusion reactor, early tokamak designs used glass chambers and the look I remember of an old photograph does look like a brown 70's version of the arc reactor. If I remember correctly the problem with glass was that it couldn't be cleaned sufficiently for reliable fusion. They kept getting impurities in the plasma, killing their fusion rate.
Luckily Tony Stark doesn't have to obey real world physics, because cleaning to the required level in a cave would have been even beyond his skills.

Also it is apparently not D-T fusion because nobody is developing radiation poisoning caused by high speed neutrons causing massive amounts of secondary radiation from the glass envelope.
Also I have no idea how the Arc reactors tap energy from the reaction. I don't see the required heat exchangers to get steam power. Maybe it taps power directly from the plasma flow, like a transformer (with the plasma flow itself as a primary coil)?

It does look gorgeous though. And it powers impossible tech suitable for glorious battles against god-like aliens.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Whizbang » Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:56 pm UTC


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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Oct 01, 2015 3:12 pm UTC

Neil_Boekend wrote:It is apparently not D-T fusion because nobody is developing radiation poisoning caused by high speed neutrons causing massive amounts of secondary radiation from the glass envelope.

No poisoning, you say?
Spoiler:
Image
I'm amused that these MIT students named their design an ARC reactor.

Also I have no idea how the Arc reactors tap energy from the reaction. I don't see the required heat exchangers to get steam power. Maybe it taps power directly from the plasma flow, like a transformer (with the plasma flow itself as a primary coil)?

It does look gorgeous though. And it powers impossible tech suitable for glorious battles against god-like aliens.

Perhaps it is something like this gun model reactor, but arranged in a toroidal fashion to produce a sustained flow?

He's using the energy to actuate a bunch of internal motors and pistons, plus the repulsors. I can only imagine they are functioning around a combination of high current and high voltage. He needs room-temperature superconductors, probably.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Neil_Boekend » Thu Oct 01, 2015 3:52 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Neil_Boekend wrote:It is apparently not D-T fusion because nobody is developing radiation poisoning caused by high speed neutrons causing massive amounts of secondary radiation from the glass envelope.

No poisoning, you say?
Spoiler:
Image
True, I was only thinking of the large reactor powering the factory. As with everything in movies the laws of physics are applicable when that is a useful plot device and not when it gets in the way of the look and feel.
sevenperforce wrote:I'm amused that these MIT students named their design an ARC reactor.

Also I have no idea how the Arc reactors tap energy from the reaction. I don't see the required heat exchangers to get steam power. Maybe it taps power directly from the plasma flow, like a transformer (with the plasma flow itself as a primary coil)?

It does look gorgeous though. And it powers impossible tech suitable for glorious battles against god-like aliens.

Perhaps it is something like this gun model reactor, but arranged in a toroidal fashion to produce a sustained flow?

He's using the energy to actuate a bunch of internal motors and pistons, plus the repulsors. I can only imagine they are functioning around a combination of high current and high voltage. He needs room-temperature superconductors, probably.

Indeed, something like that. The waste products gain a lot of kinetic energy in the reaction. Tokamak designs (like the ITER) convert that energy to heat, to steam pressure and then to electricity. Now that I think about it: since kinetic energy of ions is electricity in a difficult container the ITER effectively converts electricity to heat, to steam and then back to electricity.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Oct 01, 2015 4:25 pm UTC

The ideal reactor would be a dynamic magnetic field which confines the plasma fusion fuel which transmutes into fusion products which produce the dynamic magnetic field you started with. Because then it's trivial to pull power directly off the magnetic flux.

That's how electricity is generated by most existing powerplants. The heat boils water, which runs a turbine, which spins some magnets, which generates a dynamic magnetic field, which you use to generate electricity. This would just cut out the middleman.

With a lot of waste heat, though. :(

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Neil_Boekend » Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:55 am UTC

The delta T is big enough that the cooling system could probably generate power, while still cooling effectively.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Minerva » Sun Oct 04, 2015 6:25 am UTC

It has been proposed and seriously studied. Somebody mentioned PACER above.

If you set up a Teller-Ulam design so that the secondary (fusion) stage provides most of the energy, the fusion fraction (as a fraction of the overall energy yield) is as high as possible, the primary is very small (and the device yield is very small overall) and the primary is as efficient as possible, using the minimum possible amount of fissile material, then it's basically a fusion powerplant, with only a tiny bit of fission, and it's proven, working, well understood technology which is available now, so that's interesting.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby krogoth » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:10 am UTC

Why not just a large 2/4stroke engine? it could be water cooled, You only need an engine large enough, made of strong enough materials to survive the impact set them off consecutively and a massive flywheel to store the energy. Talk about steampunk style.

Edit, actually with a flywheel once it was going you wouldn't need to fire them consecutively, just often enough to keep it spinning well.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Oct 07, 2015 12:44 pm UTC

Neil_Boekend wrote:The delta T is big enough that the cooling system could probably generate power, while still cooling effectively.
Or just use that heat directly to grow tomatoes or something.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby Neil_Boekend » Thu Oct 08, 2015 7:31 am UTC

Tomatoes don't like environmental air to be over 1000°C. So you'd have to turn high grade heat into low grade heat anyway. The waste heat from the power generating cooling system will be sufficient to heat tomatoes (assuming it works at all).
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Oct 08, 2015 8:29 am UTC

Lots of tomatoes.
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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby speising » Thu Oct 08, 2015 9:15 am UTC

Also, with all the radiation, you can probably even grow tomaccoes.

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Re: Nuclear explosion powerplant

Postby >-) » Thu Oct 08, 2015 4:04 pm UTC

might the radiation cause the tomatoes to be mutant tomatoes?


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