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Comment Re:Things that I wish wouldn't keep getting repeat (Score 1) 329

> TL:DR stop spreading irrational fear about nuclear fission power plants

Why bother even saying that? Do you think this person will be convinced? Do you think people like this are the reason that fission plants aren't being built in any number, and the "fission renaissance" is as dead as The King? It isn't.

Fission, fusion, coal, anything using a Rankine cycle for energy extraction, is no longer economically competitive. They haven't been since around 2008, when wind turbines hit ~$2.50 a watt. Now they're $1.50 a watt. Darlington B was whispered at a *minimum* of $8.25 a watt. Vogtle is around $7.25. Crystal River was $11. That's it, that's all, that's the entire reason fission is dead.

Fusion is done like dinner, but keeps itself alive though massive funding efforts and a dearth of other big science to spend on. There's no way it will ever be economical, and everyone knows that. There's plenty of papers written by the industry itself saying just that, and they go back to the 1970s.

Comment Major my ass (Score 1) 329

1) it was with hydrogen, not D or D-T, which makes it easier to do
2) JET is limited by its flywheel storage to 30 seconds, but routinely hits 100 million degrees for 30 seconds
3) ITER is designed to hit 200 million with actual fuel, and do that for something like 10 minutes

This is a classic example of the sort of overblown press releases the sciences put out these days. It is precisely as interesting as those "new solar power record!" papers we constantly see here, which when you read the fine print are records compared only to other craptastic tech that mainstream systems have been beating for decades.

Comment Crying all the way to the bank (briefly anyway) (Score 4, Insightful) 148

Apple has, what, $200 billion in the bank? Their quarterly income is what, $50 billion? I'm sure they're quaking in their boots.

Here's the absolute "worst" case scenario for the company: they pay the fine from change they find on the cafeteria floor, and then send out a press release with a mild complaint about it but saying they're happy as long as the money is put to good use. Ireland cuts them a side deal for the inconvenience, and Apple agrees to remain in Cork for the foreseeable future.

So basically zero change whatsoever.

Comment Re:Apple is not "The world’s largest company (Score 2, Insightful) 148

"Based on its est reserves & a (conservative) valuation of $10 p barrel" :rolleyes:

They're comparing one company's total future raw material value to another's present stock value? And you think that's interesting?

The measure in question is the total *possible future value* of the company. Eventually they will run out of oil and be worth nothing. They are estimating total sales between now and then.

In comparison, Apple has nothing to run out of and can continue selling updates to their existing products forever. So by the same measure and definition, Apple's value is infinite.

Infinite >> 2.5 trillion

Comment Not really (Score 4, Interesting) 163

"This kind of refurbishing is why the Space Shuttle ended up being way more expensive than expected"

It was fully expected to be that expensive, the upper management simply ignored it.

At one point when they were still considering fully reusable designs, the Phase II' candidates, management put the cost of the system at something like $100 per pound to orbit. However, they had already estimated the staffing at the Cape to be on the order of 25,000 people, which meant the payroll alone was about $500 a pound. Most estimates put the absolute lowest cost at $1000/pound. After Challenger it was over $2500, making it the most expensive launch system in US history.

So why was management saying $100 until the end? Because the entire justification for the Shuttle was that it would be lower cost than any other system. And because of that, everyone would move their cargos to it. And since everyone moved their cargos to it, it would be launching all the time. And because it was launching all the time, the embedded payroll per launch was lower. Even then it didn't look like it could match Scout, so they came up with the Getaway Specials to try to take those, and then cancelled Scout.

Now it was clear to everyone, including the very detailed CBO report, that if they didn't get every single payload out there, then there was no way to get the launch rates they needed to make the payroll costs go down. And as the CBO report noted, if any of those assumptions failed, it would end up being more expensive than systems like Titan. And they went on to point out that many of the payloads NASA assumed would move to the Shuttle never even existed in the first place (modular telcomsats for instance, which they just made up).

So management lied, fully aware there was no way they could meet the numbers. And it was this precise attitude that caused the Challenger Disaster, where bad news numbers were simply ignored and replaced with ones that met political or economic criterion.

Comment Re:Cancelled by Congress (Score 2) 143

> The proper thing to to with the waste is use it to power a breeder reactor and get more of the energy out of the stuff.
> However, that was outlawed for no good reason so power plants are forced to define high energy
> radioactive material as 'waste' instead of 'fuel.'


The extremely good reason is that breeders are fueled by highly enriched uranium which is fantastically expensive, and their primary output is plutonium, which is fantastically dangerous. And if you don't recall, the US "lost" several bombs worth of plutonium during the 1960s and 70s (and continues to do so at a fantastic rate), and the idea that there would be 100 times more of the stuff to be skimmed from gave people the willies, and rightfully so.

But that's far from the main reason. The main reason is that the only thing breeders have successfully done is go bankrupt. The economics of breeders is *terrible*. You can only mix so much of the new fuel in with stuff you mine, it's not like the stuff that comes out of the breeder is fuel in of itself. So in order to use up what you get, you need a fleet of something like 50 reactors per breeder. So that means the US needs two of them, which means they will *never* pay for their R&D - nuclear fuel simply isn't that expensive in the first place.

Now the French were worried they'd run out of fuel, so they pressed ahead with breeders in the 1970s. The French pressed on anyway, and it was a disaster. After dumping billions into the breeder hole, they simply threw up their hands and walked away. Given the rapid fall in fuel costs during the 1980s, the idea of having to burn up all that expensive HEU to make a *little* more fuel that was orders of magnitude more expensive than just buying on the open market put a nail in the coffin of the concept.

All of this was very well known and reported on at the time, maybe you should read one of the many find accounts in Scientific American that spelled out the problems in detail.

Comment Re:Waste or fuel? (Score 2) 143

Gah, I wish /. had "edit". I forgot to mention that the #1 output from the reprocessing is plutonium. You can mix that into your fuel mix in some reactors, and this is common in France and the UK for instance, but it is a proliferation issue. This is why the US and fSovs offered to reprocess fuel for other countries, even after the US decided not to reprocess its own.

Comment Re:Waste or fuel? (Score 4, Informative) 143

> So how much of the "waste" is just spent fuel that can be reprocessed vs irradiated materials and other construction trash and whatnot

It depends on the type of reactor. The MAGNOX and CANDUs have better neutron economy, so you can burn all sorts of mixes that won't burn in a typical US or French reactor. That said, France is the #1 reprocessed, and the UK and Canada are both involved too (along with Russia and Japan).

In the best-case scenarios, you can get the equivalent of 30% recovery - that is, you can get enough fuel from the waste to cover 30% of what you burned to get that waste. It's not insignificant, but it certainly doesn't eliminate the waste problem, in spite of what you might have heard. The real advantage is that it tends to isolate the nastier bits, which means that part can be stored more easily while you can put the larger-in-volume-but-less-nasty stuff somewhere less intensive.

As always the only real problem is cost. Reprocessed fuel costs much more than just digging up new stuff from the ground. As reactors can't really compete on the market right now even with the current fuel glut forcing prices down, they can't even think about used reprocessed fuel. Again, that depends on the cycle, at least some of the fuel being used here in Canada is reprocessed.

The good news is that the good parts don't burn off quickly, so if there is a need for reprocessed fuel, you can always go and get it from storage. Of course, it will be a very cold day in hell before the economics are in your favor, given the CAPEX on wind and solar for fiscal '16.

Comment Geez, read a book (Score 1) 54

"Secondly, the CPU itself contained 10 parallel functional units (parallel processors, or PPs), so it could operate on ten different instructions simultaneously. This was unique for the time."

Oh god, this isn't even remotely correct.

For one, a similar design was used by Cray's earlier machine, the CC 6600, which also had 10 PPAs. And by the 7600, and the 8600. For another, there were dozens of machines with similar designs that predate this, including PEPE and the ILLIAC IV, both of which had hundreds of units.

So bogus.

Submission + - The real Star Raiders II

Maury Markowitz writes: Star Raiders was the Atari 8-bit home computer's killer app, inspiring Ted Nelson to claim that "The Atari machine is the most extraordinary computer graphics box ever made, and Star Raiders is its virtuoso demonstration game." It was not until many years later that a sequel, of sorts, was released. This Star Raiders II was nothing at all like the original, as it was originally The Last Starfighter, a licensed tie-in to that was rebranded to avoid the stench of the box-office flop.

Well now, three decades later, Kevin Savetz of the excellent ANTIC podcast has dropped a bomb on the retrogaming community: there was a real Star Raiders II under construction for a long time, but it disappeared as Atari imploded. Kevin tracked down the author, Aric Wilmunder, and convinced him to release it after all these years. You can download the game for the emulator of your choice, and read the manual and backstory on the Internet Archive.
The Military

US Navy's $700 Million Mine-drone Won't Hunt ( 92

New submitter ripvlan writes: CNN reports that a $700 million mine hunting system created by Lockheed Martin doesn't perform as expected. From the article: "The Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for the Navy's new littoral combat ship. But the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014. ... In theory, the drone is deployed from the LCS towing sonar detection into suspected underwater minefields. The drone should then identify mines and communicate information about their whereabouts to the ship in real time so the explosives can be avoided or destroyed. But the program has come under fire from lawmakers after a series of testing failures, including continued performance issues and "RMS mission package integration challenges," according to the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation's 2014 annual report."

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