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Author: Subject: Feasibility of creating a nuclear reactor with the aim of transmutation?
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[*] posted on 4-12-2020 at 17:17
Feasibility of creating a nuclear reactor with the aim of transmutation?


I've recently been mulling over some interesting topics on nuclear chemistry and I found out some very interesting information. We all know that palladium has gone up in price an unbelievable amount over the last couple decades, even shooting past the price of gold. Now molybdenum, element 42 has natural isotopes between 92 and 100, most of which are able to gain neutron's until Mo-99 which transmutes to Tc-99 with a half-life of ~2.5 days. Now the rest of the natural Molybdenum isotopes, well really just Mo-100, can absorb a neutron to Mo-101 which decays via beta emission to Tc-101. If this trend is repeated, both Tc isotopes can effectively be transmuted to Ru, then in turn Rh, and then Pd, all using neutron absorption and beta emission decay. Molybdenum is extremely cheap too, I think if you buy it in bulk you can get a kg for around $50, maybe cheaper. Now I know the capacity of transmuting elements in an amateur setting will not be comparable to something like a nuclear reactor, but what is the feasibility to be able to see a macroscopic difference?

I've seen videos online where individuals have made deuterium reactors by linking up high voltage electrodes in a vacuum space that is filled with millibars of deuterium, creating quite literally fusion reactors. The electrons in partial vacuum form a corona discharge which runs into individual gas molecules in the chamber stripping them of electrons, and forming positively charged ions. The positive ions are then pulled toward the center of the reactor via an electric field and, with a high enough voltage, will slam into each other quick enough, and with enough kinetic energy, to fuse the elements together. If deuterium is used then the fusion of it form helium-3 and kicks out a neutron. Now using an effective neutron moderator as a lining, like graphite, could one feasibly construct a device that focuses those neutrons into an element and transmute said element?

I have also seen neutron generators that run off the collision of alpha particles and neutron promoters like aluminum or beryllium but I have read that the flux of neutrons would not be nearly enough for transmutation. I don't know, just spit balling here
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[*] posted on 6-12-2020 at 17:45


For anybody curious as to how I was going to get deuterium - I know you can buy it but it’s pretty expensive - I was going to merge that problem with another project I had planned up. I was going to build an electrolysis device that separates hydrogen and oxygen by essentially creating a 2 cell electrolysis cell and use a glass fritted filter as the divider. I am hoping to get into glass blowing so I can, not only fix glassware as it breaks (everybody’s been there) but also to expand the range of tools I can use at my disposal. The electrolyte will be sodium hydroxide and I will have a main water reservoir that will auto fill the cells when the water gets too low, via float switches. The gasses of each electrode will feed into a floating jar chamber that raises and lowers depending on how much gas it’s filled with. These float chambers will also have float switches that will tell how full the chambers are and once full will trigger a refrigeration compressor to charge an empty gas cylinder. The feed from the float chambers will first send the gas to a large drying tube that feeds into the compressor. The tanks will have a pressure transducer that will tell when the tanks are fully charged. This way the system is automated, I get a nice stock of oxygen and hydrogen for an HHO torch (the proper way, not premixed) and produce D2O concurrently. This will all be managed using either a teensy or arduino microcontroller.

This isn’t something that will be accomplished all in one day, nor a month, or likely even a year but it would be a neat system to get set up.
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[*] posted on 6-12-2020 at 18:01


Well, think about it this way.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor#Neutron_source
"To date, the highest neutron flux achieved by a fusor-like device has been 3 × 10^11 neutrons per second with the deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction."
One milligram of 101Ru contains about 6 * 10^18 atoms. So assuming you start with pure 100Mo and your goal is to make pure 101Ru, and assuming that every neutron produced is absorbed by a 100Mo nucleus, you would need to run the world's largest fusor for about a year in order to produce one milligram of ruthenium.

I assume that clears up any questions about how practical this is ;)




[Edited on 04-20-1969 by clearly_not_atara]
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[*] posted on 6-12-2020 at 18:21


hahaha, that was a swift kick to the nuts of that idea. Dang I was actually getting stoked about doing something like that. Well... maybe I'll get around to it some day for the halibut.
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[*] posted on 6-12-2020 at 18:53


The halibut will be too small to see.
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[*] posted on 6-12-2020 at 19:09


It would seem so, unfortunately...
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[*] posted on 7-12-2020 at 18:03


With hydrogen, aluminum, iodine, boron, uranium, and tennessine you can make all the H Al I B U Ts you need.
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[*] posted on 9-12-2020 at 07:46


In theory you could construct a breeder reactor as your neutron source, and it might get you a high enough neutron flux to get visible amounts of your final product. Emphasis on the in theory part, building a breeder reactor is a terrible idea, stupendously dangerous, and probably very much illegal.

Honestly anything making enough neutrons to give visible, much less useful amount of palladium is probably not something you want to be around, especially for the long periods of time needed.




Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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[*] posted on 11-12-2020 at 05:37


I was thinking about other ways of producing large amounts of neutrons. Apparently proton accelerators produce a massive amount of neutrons when slammed into lead targets through spallation. I didn't look too much into it but it may be something I'll look into down the line. All you would need is hydrogen and a strong enough E field to ionize and then create a circular track of a couple meters or so. Using oscillating electromagnets at the proper frequency I'm sure you could get the couple hundred MeV needed
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[*] posted on 11-12-2020 at 07:19


As a warning don't do anything with neutron radiation if you don't know exactly what you're doing, and have worked with less harmful forms of radiation in the past. Neutron radiation is often considered the most dangerous form of radiation. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, don't. If you don't have a neutron detector, shielding, etc., don't. Especially with larger amounts of neutrons. A fusor is one thing. A particle accelerator producing orders of magnitude more is a completely different thing. If you don't have the means to do something like this safely, don't do it at all. Constructing a particle accelerator, even a small one requires high vacuum, lethal voltages, lethal amounts of radiation, etc, etc. I'm not trying to dissuade you, just warning you about the dangers. I don't know your level of knowledge in these fields, so if you already knew all this, just ignore this.

If you do end up making said particle accelerator, could you update us on the progress, I've been trying (and failing) to make a linear accelerator for months now, though the one I've been working on uses lithium deuteroxide as the target and tritium ions as the particles being accelerated. My goal is to end up with detectable amounts of Pu 239 and 240 from U 238. Once I get it running, maybe I'll try making Pd from Mo. Could be a neat thing to try

[Edited on 11-12-2020 by itsallgoodjames]




Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 03:17


Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
My goal is to end up with detectable amounts of Pu 239 and 240 from U 238.
[Edited on 11-12-2020 by itsallgoodjames]


Radiation exposure is the least of your worries if you are making Pu-239. Sounds like a sure way to end up in prison for a long long time. It's one thing to make short lived isotopes without any applications, but making nuclear fuel sounds like the most illegal thing you could possibly do with a particle accelerator (even in minuscule quantities).

[Edited on 12-12-2020 by Heptylene]
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 04:11


I am well aware of the dangers of radiation. I haven’t started anything besides considerations. If I do come around to constructing anything I would plane on getting enough lead to reduce exposure to acceptable levels. As far as the electronics go, I am not worried. I have a degree in EE from a State school so I am well aware of the dangers. I am just trying to gather information and hear from others about their experiences with such endeavors. I have a few other projects I plan on completing beforehand. One of them is a 2 stage refrigeration system for my cold trap to be used for vacuum distillations. I also may design a larger 3rd stage system to condense atmospheric gasses. If I end up making a system that can condense nitrogen I may make a cryodistillation setup to separate the liquids. I was hoping to make a nitrogen purifier and compressor besides the cryocooler for use in oxygen-free reactions so that may be made beforehand. I would like to use one of the nitrogen separator filters that can be fed pressurized air and purify nitrogen. Anyways, I digress.

The Pu-239 idea has come to mind before, for element collecting, however I believe fissile materials like such are highly regulated. I would rather focus on other projects that don’t lead to federal inquiries.
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 06:58


While it's true that neutrons are more dangerous, I suspect that the x ray bremsstrahlung from the protons hitting the lead would kill you first, the scattered protons would kill you secons and the neutrons would only manage to kill you if you somehow survived the first two.

While building a reactor to produce things like palladium would be absurdly uneconomical, it might be viable to recover the interesting elements from the spent fuel of a power generation reactor, since production the cost has already been met.
You only need to cover the extraction cost.
That might be a reasonable thing to look at as part of the reprocessing of spent fuel.

If you really want Pu239 for an element collection...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinitite
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 07:14


In many countries (eg USA) it is expressly forbidden to deliberately create a neutron source,
so be careful AND quiet.




CAUTION : Hobby Chemist, not Professional or even Amateur
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 07:35


Quote: Originally posted by Heptylene  
Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
My goal is to end up with detectable amounts of Pu 239 and 240 from U 238.
[Edited on 11-12-2020 by itsallgoodjames]


Radiation exposure is the least of your worries if you are making Pu-239. Sounds like a sure way to end up in prison for a long long time. It's one thing to make short lived isotopes without any applications, but making nuclear fuel sounds like the most illegal thing you could possibly do with a particle accelerator (even in minuscule quantities).

[Edited on 12-12-2020 by Heptylene]


It'd be in the microgram quantities, just enough to detect with gamma spectroscopy. I can't think of anything nefarious one could do with a few micrograms of plutonium.

Plus, the Pu240 content is likely to be extremely high, so it couldn't realistically be used in a nuclear weapon, even if I had a critical mass of it, which as I said, I'm not going to be anywhere near.

The point is to have some for element collection

edit- I've done some reading on the legality of this in canada, and it seems I can legally have up to 0.4 micrograms of plutonium per kilogram of sample. I guess I'll have to dial down the amount of plutonium I make a decent bit, but it can be done legally. Somewhat surprising actually. I imagine the exemption is for radioisotope sources, but I can take advantage of it for my plutonium. The only problem is I couldn't realistically acquire anywhere near a kilogram of u-238.

[Edited on 12-12-2020 by itsallgoodjames]




Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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[*] posted on 12-12-2020 at 07:38


Quote: Originally posted by Sulaiman  
In many countries (eg USA) it is expressly forbidden to deliberately create a neutron source,
so be careful AND quiet.


So fusors are illegal in the US?




Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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biggrin.gif posted on 12-12-2020 at 14:23


Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
I can't think of anything nefarious one could do with a few micrograms of plutonium.

Assuming yields like early fission devices I would expect 3-4g TNT per µg Pu. Should be enough to blow up a mailbox :D




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[*] posted on 15-12-2020 at 06:37


Quote: Originally posted by Fulmen  
Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
I can't think of anything nefarious one could do with a few micrograms of plutonium.

Assuming yields like early fission devices I would expect 3-4g TNT per µg Pu. Should be enough to blow up a mailbox :D


Wow, that puts into perspective how energy dense the nuclei of atoms are




Nuclear physics is neat. It's a shame it's so regulated...

Now that I think about it, that's probably a good thing. Still annoying though.
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[*] posted on 15-12-2020 at 13:14


The amount of matter converted into energy is of course much smaller, less than a nanogram.



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