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Old 4th June 2019, 02:00 PM   #1
Cainkane1
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Could scientists with a great deal of research manufacture helium?

I read where its a by-product of nuclear fission. Could we harvest helium from nuclear power plants?
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Old 4th June 2019, 03:31 PM   #2
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It's a by-product of nuclear fusion, not fission. If they ever realize practical fusion power generation, maybe.
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Old 4th June 2019, 03:36 PM   #3
phunk
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The amounts would be tiny compared to our current usage.
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Old 4th June 2019, 03:38 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by phunk View Post
The amounts would be tiny compared to our current usage.
If it could be done, they'd waste no time in doing it at industrial scales.
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Old 4th June 2019, 03:56 PM   #5
Nowhere Man
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
It's a by-product of nuclear fusion, not fission. If they ever realize practical fusion power generation, maybe.
Fission as well, if you stretch the definition a bit. Alpha decay could be considered to be fissioning into a helium nucleus and something two positions down from the original.

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Old 4th June 2019, 04:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
It's a by-product of nuclear fusion, not fission. If they ever realize practical fusion power generation, maybe.
It is also a by-product of radioactive decay. But as pointed out elsewhere the amounts are tiny so hardly worth worrying about.
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Old 4th June 2019, 07:36 PM   #7
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The vast majority of helium-3 used in industry is synthetic, actually. After 12 years, 2 t of tritium becomes 1 t of tritium and 1 t of helium-3. Tritium being a necessary component of thermonuclear bombs, we keep fair amounts around to maintain our arsenal, manufacturing it in fission reactors by exposing lithium to neutrons.

We've got better sources of helium-4, but if we had to, it would be one of the easier substances to synthesize.
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Old 5th June 2019, 09:01 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nowhere Man View Post
Fission as well, if you stretch the definition a bit. Alpha decay could be considered to be fissioning into a helium nucleus and something two positions down from the original.

Fred
Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
It is also a by-product of radioactive decay. But as pointed out elsewhere the amounts are tiny so hardly worth worrying about.
I had a sneaky feeling that someone would come along and say something like that.



Is it a byproduct of the sort of fission we use to generate electricity?

We extract a lot of natural gas in the US, I believe, and I think I read somewhere that it contains helium, but that we don't actually harvest the helium. We let it go to waste. But, hey, we waste a lot of helium.
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Old 6th June 2019, 07:48 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
I read where its a by-product of nuclear fission. Could we harvest helium from nuclear power plants?
Well sort of Yes.

While it is possible to collect the Helium that is produced in nuclear power plants but doing so costs far, far, far more than it presently costs to collect Helium.

So it is quite impractical.
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Old 6th June 2019, 04:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Well sort of Yes.

While it is possible to collect the Helium that is produced in nuclear power plants but doing so costs far, far, far more than it presently costs to collect Helium.

So it is quite impractical.
Except for helium-3, as I noted above. It and the tritium which is its precursor have properties that make them worth synthesizing.

The US is apparently only currently using one reactor at Watts Bar for this, so the process could be scaled up many times over with little effort, but you wouldn't use it as a substitute for helium-4 extracted from natural gas. Your party balloons would cost hundreds of dollars to fill.
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Old 6th June 2019, 06:07 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
We extract a lot of natural gas in the US, I believe, and I think I read somewhere that it contains helium, but that we don't actually harvest the helium. [/url].
They used to extract it from natural gas and store it in the National Helium Reserve.

They tried to phase that out, which seems like a terrible idea. The government was forced to sell helium at well below the market rate at a time when helium was required in large quantities for cryogenic superconductive doodads and whatzits. I mean, we might be able to manufacture enough to make some nice balloons, but I understand there are applications that still need quite a lot of liquid helium to maintain sufficiently cold temperatures, and we are nowhere near being able to create it in such quantities. I always thought of it was one of the most non-renewable of all non-renewable resources.

Maybe by now some of these superconductive things can work at temps maintained by liquid nitrogen, I don't know.
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Old 6th June 2019, 07:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
Maybe by now some of these superconductive things can work at temps maintained by liquid nitrogen, I don't know.
There are superconductors which operate at liquid nitrogen temperatures. The problem is that they're brittle ceramics, and making wires from them is difficult and expensive, and they don't always have as good current carrying capacity.
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