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Nuclear-Powered Home Heating

Small nuclear reactor in basement provides steam for radiators
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I've often thought it would be cool to heat homes with nuclear power. While nuclear powered cars, airplanes, or ovens (all ideas tried in the 1950s) might not be so feasable, this one might actually work.

A few small pellets of fuel would be sufficient to heat a home for decades. The pebble bed variety of reactors might work best. Heavy radiation shielding would be needed, so it would be best to bury the reactor below the house in the foundation. Steam would be piped up to radiators in the walls and floors, and condensed water would flow back down.

If people didn't like the idea of having all that radiation under them, centralized plants could be built much the same way as power plants are, with pipes running to individual houses. With turbines, power could also be generated.

discontinuuity, Jun 21 2005

Pebble-bed reactors http://www.wired.co...ve/12.09/china.html
[angel, Jun 22 2005]

Element 94 http://www.theodore...s/094/index.s7.html
Out of stock [pooduck, Aug 02 2005]

Stirling power & heat gen for homes http://www.whispergen.com/
Environmentally friendly option [Pellepeloton, Sep 17 2006]

[link]






       How much uranium is there on the world market? There might not be enough. Let alone concerns about burgeoning nuclear waste piles.
Adze, Jun 21 2005
  

       Every home with it's own dirty bomb.
suctionpad, Jun 21 2005
  

       Great Scott, Marty! Cue Mr Fusion...
egbert, Jun 22 2005
  

       Not actually as daft as it might sound. Check out the pebble-bed reactor (linky); inherently meltdown-proof, and the by-product is hydrogen.
angel, Jun 22 2005
  

       You might not need a nuclear reactor at all. For example, the voyager spacecraft were powered by the slow steady heat from the natural decay of plutonium. In that case, thermocouples were used to convert the heat into electricity. In the home heating case, a circulating liquid or gas could be heated by the isotope and pass through a heat exchanger to heat your home.   

       This approach would require less nuclear material and would not be in danger of melting down. Also, the power source would last for decades. The plutonium 238 used on the voyager missions has a halflife of about 88 years.   

       I'm not sure how much plutonium costs these days, but I'm not sure that it would be a better deal than buying 40 years worth of home heating oil. Does anyone know the cost of plutonium?
JephSullivan, Aug 02 2005
  

       I'm not sure that there's an accepted trade value or market for the stuff any more but the former AEC sold the 85% enriched pu238 isotope for about $700/gram to other agencies. One Kg yields an equivalent of 20-25 million kilowatt hours of heat energy (!).   

       The pu239 is a bit more energetic with a half-life over 20,000 years (!)
bristolz, Aug 02 2005
  

       Surprisingly it isn't possible to buy plutonium legally, and Google is surprisingly devoid of links to black market deals.
pooduck, Aug 02 2005
  

       There's a feature in this month's National Geographic that suggests that part of Boston MA 's electricity is provided by material recovered from ex-Soviet warheads.
TolpuddleSartre, Aug 02 2005
  

       //centralized plants could be built much the same way as power plants are..... With turbines, power could also be generated.// These would be like stationary places that generated power from nuclear reactions? We need a snappier name for them. Maybe "Nuclear power stations"?
Basepair, Aug 02 2005
  

       How did I guess this idea cam from the States? How about insulating your house so well that no extra heating is required? In fact I am going to submit that as an idea.
Pellepeloton, Sep 16 2006
  

       It's cold in here.. I'm going to turn on the reactor.
Zus, Sep 17 2006
  

       you know, if you combine nuclear decay with the cold of space, you might be able to run a stirling engine fairly well. too bad that there's the whole issue of not having anything to push for propulsion.
tcarson, Sep 17 2006
  
      
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