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Old 08-17-2013, 11:16 PM
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Default Plutonium in pressure cookers

This is what happens if a state or company working with nuclear material has to save money: They store plutonium rods in regular kitchen pressure cookers. Here is the link (in French) to the offerte: tenderise.eu - Avis de marché F-Is-sur-Tille: Appareils ménagers de cuisson 2013/S 125-214244
They want to buy 4000 pressure cookers for the labs that produce the plutonium for the nuclear missiles in france. According to official press release, rods of 10 cm length and 2 cm diameter will be stacked into the cookers in a box and then stored on site. The cookers are not supposed to leave the area.
Still I find this very worrying. I imaged they have special hardened radiation resistant vessels for this purpose in a high tech lab - but this sounds like in a public university research lab where people have to be inventive to do some research and use cheap materials. But that is not for such critical stuff. How many tons of plutonium can one store in 4000 cookers of I believe 17 liters each?

This is why I think nuclear research that deals with large amounts of radiactivity has to be very much limited. Such stuff is only for the ones that want to spend a lot of money on it and in these times no state is that rich and no corporation wants to spend money on anything if they dont have to anyways.
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:02 AM
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As far as I know, the only result of storing plutonium in pressure cookers for short amounts of time will be a very slightly radioactive pressure cooker.
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:37 AM
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Probably.
But really - do you think that common kitchen pressure cookers are an appropriate vessel for storing one of the most toxic substances in the world even for a short time? I mean, I imagined research labs for something that toxic to have special materials, special safety containers and such. In the labs I worked in they had special containers for everything, especially the biological stuff that was dangerous or the cancerogenic materials. If something was not going well it was mostly because people did something wrong, not because the vessels were inadequate. But people would not get the idea to lets say put some dangerous microbes in a sterilized yoghurt bucket to store it in the refrigerator room. I do that with my edible mushroom cultures for the garden, but those are not dangerous.

Here is a news article on that in German. No english articles yet to be found.
http://www.mainpost.de/ueberregional...t16698,7629880
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Last edited by auroraglacialis; 08-18-2013 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 08-22-2013, 10:09 PM
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Actually, if they're considered sufficient, where's the problem?

Remember they're thick metal. Indeed, normal storage vessels aren't particularly more shielding in most cases simply because there isn't a need given the containment outside.

PS. Plutonium isn't specifically 'toxic'. Given your love of naturalistic fallacy, I thought you'd realise that,
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Old 08-22-2013, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
Probably.
But really - do you think that common kitchen pressure cookers are an appropriate vessel for storing one of the most toxic substances in the world even for a short time?
They are, by definition, airtight. The only concern I would have would be leaving radioactive material behind, but since plutonium and uranium are solid metals, not a dust, I don't see much problem.
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Old 08-23-2013, 09:19 AM
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The pressure cookers I know are not 100% airtight. They are tight enough to cook in but they always have some steam coming out at some corner.
Most of all I have problems with one thing though - they are designed under the assumption that they will contain edible nontoxic materials and nontoxic water vapour and air. A design using these assumptions will produce a product that fits these parameters. At no point in the design process, choice of materials and testing it was considered that someone stores toxic and radioactive materials in them. This is like...like building a brake for a motorcycle and then using it in a car and saying "hey it does work and can stop a wheel from rotating". Or like using a plastic container made for industrial grade crude oil and use it for drinking water...
Next thing is that they use a kitchen vacuum seal bag machine to store their Plutonium in because it is airtight as well? IMO this is clearly motivated by financial pressures and not by a pracice of best choice.


Wikipedia: "When exposed to moist air, it forms oxides and hydrides that expand the sample up to 70% in volume, which in turn flake off as a powder that can spontaneously ignite." and "The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 microns wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average". 5000 particles is a really really small amount. So I think this can be considered quite toxic, especially given the first part about flaking off when in contact with moist air. These properties IMO demand that these vessels have to be really 100% airtight and dry to prevent moisture causing this flaking which in turn would produce (toxic) dust which can escape when opening the vessels or stay in the vessels. I dont know how well the rubber rings used to make the vessel tight stand up to radiation, but honestly I think that an item should be built and designed for the purpose it is used, especially if that purpose is potentially dangerous.

I cant believe you are actually minimizing such things - what is this - you support nuclear industry practices no matter what? Cant we at least agree that current practices in nuclear industry are not all good and that they are risky and should be improved if nuclear power is to be used? Didn't you say before that you think that the old reactors should be replaced by more modern varieties because they are supposedly more safe than these old Fukushima-type pressure reactors (hehe - actually, these reactors are a bit like pressure cookers themselves, I start to get where these engineers got their idea from )
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Old 08-24-2013, 10:57 AM
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Hey, if it meets specs, why not? There's loads of off-the-shelf electronics running important systems on the ISS, for example.
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Old 08-25-2013, 05:26 PM
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But probably not many electronics specifically designed for a specific purpose that are used for a different and critical purpose. Its a difference if one uses a standard off the shelf microprocessor either in a washing machine, a TV or a space stations camera systems - or to use lets say a solar panel that was designed for dry climate and put it in the amazon.
I would say that to ensure that these things "meet specs" would be quite an effort, would have to be repeated for each individual piece again in case the manufacturing process is not as consistent as one hopes for and then if all that would be done, it would not be cheaper.
Overall I must say that I lost trust in the nuclear industry of these days, lots of rather weird and not working "fixes" have been done (and in some cases caused errors) - I am not sure how I could trust them on such a matter which would really require a lot of research to ensure that it is actually safe.
Plus I am worried about the safety overall if the funding is already that restricted that the engineers have to resort to such ways to save money. Nuclear power can IMO only work in a safe way if the companies who are doing that have a safe and large funding to develop and use safer technologies and can resort to a state financed emergency program in case of larger disasters. No company that has to watch first for profit can make such a technology really safe as for them it pays off to save some money of safety issues that are only designed for "one in a thousand years" incidents because there is no money to be made in the next few years from such an installment. And there is no company like that which could in case of a Meltdown like ****ushima get the money and personnell to clean up large areas of land, maintain the broken down plants reliably safe and eventually clean everything up and all the while not going bancrupt. No insurance company ever will offer a policy for nuclear accidents - it is always the state and thus all the people who have to take the risk and the company only makes the profit, so in such cases I think this is something that has to be state controlled and that has to be funded well enough to not have to resort to "duct tape"-solutions.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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Old 08-27-2013, 08:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
But probably not many electronics specifically designed for a specific purpose that are used for a different and critical purpose. Its a difference if one uses a standard off the shelf microprocessor either in a washing machine, a TV or a space stations camera systems - or to use lets say a solar panel that was designed for dry climate and put it in the amazon.
Space shuttle guidance was done using IBM AP-101 ACM modules that were retrofitted from B52 bombers. Many satellites and interplanetary craft use IBM PowerPC cores. I designed a thermal management module that has the ability to cut off power and cooling to several million dollars of science if it fails. The MCU is an off-the-shelf Atmel ATMega 328P-AU, which costs $3.05.

Done derailing thread, sorry. I'm not defending the nuclear industry (I never did trust the regulatory bodies of the industry; they have good intentions but lack "teeth") just stating that just because something is designed to do one thing doesn't mean that it won't be really good at doing something else. Also, the article does not state if the cookers will be modified.

Last edited by Sight Unseen; 08-27-2013 at 08:13 AM.
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