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Ocean boiler

Pointless, dangerous, impractical - let's do it.
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Construct a sphere of sub-critical weapons grade plutonium.

Sail to a suitably deep ocean trench and throw it overboard. Sail away quickly.

As it sinks slowly, water pressure will compress the sphere to gradually send it critical.

The surrounding water will boil sufficiently to support the sphere and prevent further sinking. Equilibrium will be attained.

End result: a deep-bobbing nuclear reactor that will boil the ocean.

The radioactive plume might cause a few problems.
DenholmRicshaw, Jul 18 2006

Been done already http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man
But with explosives rather than water [DenholmRicshaw, Jul 18 2006]

Details of bombs http://nuclearweapo...rg/Nwfaq/Nfaq8.html
[DenholmRicshaw, Jul 22 2006]

[link]






       not likely going to happen. are you sure that plutonium would boil off the oceans, even given a million years? besides, where would you get enough plutonium?
tcarson, Jul 18 2006
  

       Somehow I don't think you could reach sufficent pressure.
Galbinus_Caeli, Jul 19 2006
  

       what is the half life of plutonium anyway?   

       edit: apparently, plutonium has a half life of 24,100 years.
tcarson, Jul 19 2006
  

       I've just worked out that it would take 40 billion such spheres to boil the whole ocean in one go.

Of course we'd have to stop it raining for a bit to stop the ocean filling up again.
DenholmRicshaw, Jul 19 2006
  

       [formerly] Junk Science.   

       We have a nuclear reactor bigger than anything you could put together, in the center of the Earth. If the oceans haven't boiled off by now, they ain't ever going to do so. (Well, not until the Sun goes red giant, anyway.)   

       (What you're not taking into account is heat loss to space.)
DrCurry, Jul 19 2006
  

       Explain how the boiling around the sphere stops it sinking? My impression is that it would sink faster, as the steam layer would reduce friction.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 19 2006
  

       Don't worry about the steam, there won't be any. All you'll get is hot water. (If you did get steam, your device would melt, as the heat transfer to steam is very low compared to that of water.)
ldischler, Jul 19 2006
  

       DrC - I think junk science is a tad harsh.

However, being an ocean boiler it is inherently pointless to discuss it.
DenholmRicshaw, Jul 20 2006
  

       DrCurry, you're purveying a bit of junk science yourself there. That reactor you mentioned is pretty well insulated by kilometers of rock.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 20 2006
  

       BH: hardly. If DR stopped to think how we got watery oceans in the first place, when the Earth started out as a mass of molten rock, initially heated by the release of potential energy, later kept warm by nuclear reactions, then he might realise what he has left out of the equation.
DrCurry, Jul 21 2006
  

       I dont believe that there is sufficient pressure within the deepest trench of all the oceans to cause sufficient compression to cause a sustainable reaction(im not sure you would even get a reaction.) The plutonium core of a nuclear weapom is already in the shape of a ball so if in that form it is subcritical the ocean will not compress it enough to allow it to go to a critical state. The sphere would shoot straight to the ocean floor, if hollow it might crumple and implode, it will then sit on the ocean floor for 24000 years and emit radiation. Thats it.   

       I reitterate the question about the boiling water and steam supporting the ball. The ball would actually be less bouyant in steam and as such would probably fall to the bottom faster than if it was not producing steam(that is of course, if it had the ability to produce any steam, which it would not).   

       Lastly if you were somehow able to initiate a nuclear cascade reaction in the Plutonium you would not get a nice gentle heating action, You would get a catastrophic Thermonuclear explosion. I would guess that this might trigger a local Tsunami or two, a big water fountain on the surface and every siesmometer on the planet to Jjiggle, then, nothing at all.   

       This is just all gobbledy gook science with no basis in reality.
jhomrighaus, Jul 21 2006
  

       //The surrounding water will boil sufficiently to support the sphere and prevent further sinking. Equilibrium will be attained. //   

       Actually, this part is possible. With good design. And maybe taking out the word "boil".   

       It's similar to a spark floating in air--the hot air rising from the spark is replaced by cold air rushing in from below. It could be made to work in water, probably.   

       But why bother? Let the sphere sink to the ocean bottom and do its dirty work in peace--the water will come to it.   

       Or are you just wanting it to be hard to find, in case some people want to stop it?
baconbrain, Jul 21 2006
  

       Where I live, sparks are carried on the updraft from the hot fire from which they recently emerged.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 22 2006
  

       sparks arent made of Plutonium which is a very-very heavy material.
jhomrighaus, Jul 22 2006
  

       When I said "boil the ocean away" obviously I didn't mean boil away for good. It would come back as rain. I've clarified the original to mean "boil the ocean" instead. Clearly an ocean boiling project can never actually have an end point, it’s the process and the inputs to it that are important.

From a product marketing perspective, I would still call it an ocean boiler but the product description would stress the localised nature of the boiling effect. I suppose I would also have to state that it might not work.

On that subject, I read somewhere (see link) that the pressure required to send a sub-critical mass to criticality is of the order of mega bars – millions of atmospheres of pressure. A smaller pressure is apparently required to cause the less dense delta allotrope of plutonium to transition to the more dense alpha form. For this latter reason, given the thousand atmospheres of pressure at the ocean floor, the thing could just explode.

So if it did explode and I used the same amount of plutonium as was used in the Fat Man bomb, Wikipedia reveals that 8.8x10^13 J of energy would be released. This would be enough to boil about 3x10^7 kg of water. The mass of the oceans is 1.3x10^21 kg, so put another way, the energy release would add 15 pico degrees centigrade to the temperature of the oceans.

Like I said, pointless, dangerous, impractical – let’s do it.
DenholmRicshaw, Jul 22 2006
  

       With that change of scope, I guess my complaints no longer apply.
DrCurry, Jul 25 2006
  

       Won't the oceans boil away when we remove the earth's core? I think they've already begun on that one...
MoreCowbell, Jul 25 2006
  

       Ocean thermal conversion may be better as solar energy is stored in the top layer of water in the ocean.
travbm, Oct 29 2015
  
      
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