Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fouling of Reactor Fuel at Humboldt Bay

This is very old documentation, a report dated January 25, 1967. Humboldt Bay has been permanently shut down for a long time. During the early days it had a lot of fouling of the fuel elements and the plant operators devised their own schemes for dealing with it. However, it is unlikely that the fouling at Humboldt exceeded the fouling of nearly four decades later at River Bend and other units.

Loads of stockholders' and ratepayers' dollars have been poured into mammoth heat transfer rigs and analyses worldwide. A lot has been written and likely a lot more has been buried. In any case, the impact of the severe fouling has been ignored in these facilities and in the licensing and selling of the related nuke plants.

This old letter reports my conversation with a senior AEC inspector of nuclear plants during a plane ride to LA from the Bay Area. We just happened to be on the same flight. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Aluminum nitride + neutrons -> carbon 14 & incentive compensation for selected GEnii (Revised May 3, 2008)

"I could not sleep because I kept laughing," Andrei Vishinsky. I also used this Vishinsky quote in my entry of August 11, 2007, but it is too applicable in this case to pass up.

Well, Vishinsky said it all, even if it was a misplaced remark. It would have been right on if he was reacting to a line from a book that covers the nuke racket. That line refers to the (company) procedure available to employees to raise a safety issue and the management process to respond to it.

It's terrible how time flies! So almost 42 years ago some of the General Electric GEniuses (GEnii) figured out how to get a lot of something for nothing and very likely they were looking forward to some incentive compensation. I'll elaborate later. For now it is enough to say that GE is damn lucky that the target failed very soon after reactor startup and the project was abandoned. And several years later, GE's good luck again showed up when the GEniuses used an NRC concern with seismic matters as an excuse to shut down the GETR forever.

These matters get awfully involved. Originally, part of my duties at GE included evaluating prospective tests for safety. I certainly was not unduly harsh, but I rejected a few and that was enough to irritate others. So I was quietly kicked out of that work. But I wrote the following anyway. Please click for enlargement.

So I talked about it. The GEniuses then produced the following as it was decided to proceed with the grandiose plans. Again, click for enlargement.

I do not have access to the log books for GETR (indeed, they may conveniently be long lost). If had that access, I could document how after a relatively brief exposure in the GETR, the moon shaped capsules, at least one, burst open and the high level of radiation from sodium 24 (produced by neutron absorption by aluminum 23) led to shutdown of the GETR. GE was lucky that the capsules failed very soon after installation. Carbon 14 is hell!

I do not think that headquarters ever found out about this. Indeed, they likely would have preferred not to. I also doubt if any of the "experts" in the closer offices in San Jose would have had any concerns. They had bigger deals to play with. More later.

So, I have located more history. Here is what I wrote on September 30, 1966 when I understood that the irradiation of the moon shaped capsules was being delayed indefinitely (See paragraph 3 of the following and click for enlargement).

Well, by September 30, 1966, I was very misinformed about the irradiation being delayed indefinitely. (Right now, April 26, 2008, I wonder if I was deliberately misled.) The capsules were installed in the GETR and shortly after startup they failed. Anyway you may now read the first paragraph of my November 2, 1966 report.

Following that screwup, I found out that some kind of investigatory meeting was held in the office of the boss of program managers. Regarding Leyse's memo of September 16, 1966, one of the GEnii remarked that any farmer could have figured that out.

So, here are a few more details including some illustrations and a disclosure of likely violations of the operating license of the GETR. Of course, that is so long ago that the statutes have left all of the violators off the hook, indeed, many of them have croaked.

The above illustration shows the location of the four moon shaped capsules that were filled with aluminum nitride. The inside diameter of the GETR vessel is 24 inches.
Click to enlarge.

This (above)illustration shows the details of the moon shaped assembly as disclosed to AEC in the licensing documents. The aluminum nitride capsule likely had outside dimensions that are close to these, however, that assembly had significant differences in order to accommodate several kilograms of aluminum nitride powder. Again, click to enlarge.

My estimate is that each capsule held at least 5 kilograms of aluminum nitride. I briefly observed a failed capsule (perhaps several of the four capsules) in the hot cell at the Vallecitos Atomic Laboratory. An edge weld was torn open. I suppose the capsule was made of aluminum plate with one side arc shaped plate and the other side a flat plate to yield a welded capsule with moon shaped end caps. It is unlikely that the AEC was informed (in advance) of these significant changes. It is also likely that the AEC was never informed about the incident.

Of course, there are a lot of questions. How much carbon 14 was produced before the GETR was shut down and the defective capsules were removed? How much of the aluminum nitride was released into the primary coolant of the GETR? How much of that aluminum nitride and carbon-14 was released to the secondary coolant via leaking heat exchanger tubes? How much of that carbon-14 was released to the site basin via blowdown of the cooling tower? And how much of that carbon-14 was released to the effluent stream from the site basin? Of course, it has been a long time, well over 40 years. However, these are fair questions. The permanent records must be kept indefinitely according to GE licensing document APED-5000-A, Class 1, July 1965, pages 37 and 38.

So, four old pages from letters and reports and two illustrations have been presented. It's too bad that I no longer have my letter of dismissal, July 20, 1967, from that fine organization. Often I wake up about three in the morning and if I think of all this I start laughing, and it is hard to get back to sleep. Stratton left the place a month or so before I did.

Well, today, May 7, 2008, in my quest to find out if the AEC had been informed I sent the following e-mail to our Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I'm trying to find out if the AEC was ever informed.

Subject: AEC records for TR-1
Date: 5/7/2008 9:30:16 AM Mountain Daylight Time
From: Bobleyse
Reply To:


I'm seeking access to records of reports submitted by GE to the AEC and later the NRC. Also I am seeking access to AEC and NRC inspection and licensing records in the time frame of 1959 to date.

As an example of the sort of stuff that should be in the system, you may refer to the attachment, Aluminum Nitrde in GETR.jpg (166.8). I do not mean that that specific document will be in the old AEC files, however, documents that disclose the incident involving aluminum nitride in the General Electric Test Reactor (GETR) should be there. I realize that the attachment is a bit fuzzy. However it partially pins down the time frame. The capsules with aluminum nitride were irraditiated in the GETR and failed within one week of exposure during October, 1966.

The above is a very small part of the history that I am seeking.

Bob Leyse
P. O. Box 2850
Sun Valley, ID 83353

Thursday, April 24, 2008

POMP AND RISK (liars and "losers")

I'll build this from time to time. Right now, I did not want to lose track of the Title.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Old News About EPRI Cold Fusion Work (from GOOGLE)

Fatal explosion closes cold fusion laboratory
11 January 1992
From New Scientist Print Edition. DAN CHARLES , WASHINGTON DC

Cold fusion researchers are puzzled and worried by an explosion last week that killed one of their colleagues, a British electrochemist. A cold fusion 'cell at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, blew up while Andrew Riley was bending over it, killing him instantly.

According to John Bockris, a researcher on cold fusion at Texas A&M University, small explosions in such cells are common. They occur when oxygen and deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, combine on the surface of electrodes made of palladium, which catalyses the reaction.
The palladium electrodes are submerged in heavy water. At the top of the cell, they are exposed to oxygen and deuterium vapour, but a film of water usually shields the palladium from direct contact with these gases. Occasionally, says Bockris, a spot on the electrode may dry off, and that may set off a sudden explosion.

Bockris says 30 or 40 such explosions have occurred in his laboratory. In most cases, they forced the top off the steel cell; six times, the bottom blew out. But these explosion caused little damage, perhaps because the palladium wires do not have a large enough surface to catalyse a big explosion.

The explosion at SRI International was far more powerful. Three other researchers apart from Riley were hit by flying debris, including Michael McKubre, who is in charge of SRI's research on cold fusion.

McKubre has been experimenting with cells in which the experiments are kept under pressures of 60 atmospheres. But the cell that exploded, measuring only 5 centimetres in diameter and 20 cm high, was running at normal atmospheric pressure. According to Bockris, who talked to McKubre after the explosion, the cell was not even airtight at the time, so pressure could not have built up slowly inside it.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they treated the remaining fusion cells in the laboratory like unexploded bombs, says Dennis Maxwell, a spokesman for SRI. The cells were buried in an area normally reserved for hazardous waste, then later retrieved, drained and dismantled.
Inspectors from the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health confiscated the experiment's monitoring equipment. They have sealed off the laboratory until their investigation is completed. When the equipment is returned, McKubre expects to carry out his own investigation.

SRI International's research on cold fusion is funded by the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, California. Officials at the EPRI refuse to use the term 'cold fusion', however. They say only that they sponsor research on 'excess heat production in electrolytic experiments involving palladium'.

From issue 1803 of New Scientist magazine, 11 January 1992, page 12