Updated  Sunday, January 09, 2011

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Nuclear Power

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July 2009 to May 6, 2010 - my stint at Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Hollywood, Alabama is over. We have put together a schedule and cost estimate for completing Unit 1 of the plant. On October 2, 2017, I  hope the plant will be running at full power. Tom Kilgore, the president of TVA, says that the fuel cost for nuclear is $5 - where coal fuel cost is currently $35, and gas fuel cost has run $40 to $130 for the same electric power produced!! Tom wants Bellefonte up and running as soon as possible! Not only for the fuel costs, but nuclear has no CO2 footprint!!

Nuclear power is simple, as long as the fuel rods of 5% uranium are kept submerged in boron rich water to control the reaction, nothing happens. When you lower the boronated water level, the exposed portion of the fuel rods heat up. If they get too hot, just dump the boronated water back in! Chernobyl used boron control rods; not boronated water, when the boron rods could not be dropped back in to control the reaction, the fuel rods overheated. 
Uranium is a natural element that is plentiful worldwide. Normally uranium contains 1.5% U235, the rest is U238. 
Rods of only 5% U235 are not dangerous (as in explosive), only 95% pure U235 material is made into a bomb, and only if compressed. 
Centrifuges are used to extract the U235 from the U238, that is why any country that obtains hundreds of thousands of gas centrifuges (Iran) is capable of getting the purity of their uranium up to that of bomb material. (In addition Iran has tested detonators for Nuclear Weapons) http://www.itanwatch.org/update 

Anyway, back to nuclear power, the fuel rods give off enough heat to develop steam at a temp of 675, able to drive a huge generator.

The site plan for Bellefonte shows 4 Units, each capable of producing power for thousands of homes.

Units 1 and 2 mostly completed. The U235 material is well protected in the two smaller concrete structures on the right. The two larger tall structures are cooling towers. There is nothing inside the towers but sprinkler heads at the bottom! The plant produces so much excess heat that it has to be vented into the sky. 

Above is the interior of the cooling tower, the sprinkler heads are under these vanes.

Looking up inside cooling tower.

The vanes, with a spare sprinkler head fitting on top.

The U235 rods are inserted into this array and placed in a vat of boronated water.

The guys are looking into the vat where the boronated water is held and where the array passes through on the way to and from the reactor.

Once the steam is generated it passes through this turbine.

This turbine turns one of the generators (below) - that is not 24 volts, it is 24,000 volts, and 35,604 amps (854,496,000 watts - enough to power for 8 1/2 million 100 watt light bulbs!)

One huge generator!

The control panel (one half shown) where Homer Simpson spends his time.

The eight foot thick outer wall (intermediate wall shown inside, and third wall not shown). The core is well protected.

One of the interior heat protection doors.

Looking down at service door, sliding concave door is poised to drop as needed.


The electrical yard where the power is sent out (cooling towers in the background).