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Home Solar Electricity

Morris Said:

How do you make a home nuclear generator to power electricity?

We Answered:

You likely don't have the space to build a nuclear generator and provide adequate shielding. The uranium in a nuclear plant is basically a heat source, used to heat either water or liquid sodium which then drives an electromagnetic turbine. So you need room to put the turbine. Liquid sodium is tricky to handle -- it tends to catch fire when exposed to water -- and water used in a nuclear plant turns to steam, and requires some containment vessels.

You also need a place for the water or sodium to cool off after it drives the turbine. A commercial water-cooled nuclear plant uses a cooling tower on the order of 100m high (about like a 30-floor building). For residential use you don't need a 100m tower (nor would the landlord let you install it through your roof) but you will still need some place to let the water or sodium cool.

In 1994 a boy scout who lived near Detroit, Michigan collected americium from smoke detectors and thorium from lantern mantles and built a sort of working nuclear reactor, but the radioactivity spread across his neighborhood and he never got working power out of it. He did, however, attract the attention of the federal government, which took away the radioactive materials and his mother's tool shed (which had become radioactive) and some other things that had become radioactive.

If you don't in fact have weapons grade uranium, but only commercial uranium, then you may need to enrich the stuff (meaning to sort out the U-235 from the U-238), because the U-235 is fissionable and the U-238 is not. To do this properly you need the facility to work with uranium hexafluoride (a gas) and in particular to run it through a centrifuge, then to remove the fluorine from the uranium. Fluorine is toxic and corrosive and eats just about everything except fluorspar. It's difficult to handle and store, and you'll run into major problems trying to combine it with the uranium and then to dissociate it from the uranium.

Overall you're going to be much happier spending your money on solar plates. Sorry!

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