to do in these power crisis times? Well, nevermind that kntv consumed
more electricity producing and airing the story than treasure island
residents have frivolously used in past weeks. And disregard that,
had the camera crews simply turned west to look at the skyline,
they'd have observed more than a porch light of electricity being
burnt. The real issue, as clarified by washington, isn't demand,
So rather than wasting time trying to change intrenched energy use
patterns, like getting our neighbors to turn off those festive lights
they put up last november, it simply is a better use of time to
create more electricity. And with treasure island lacking the fossil
fuels preferred by the george w administration for exploitation,
the treasure island experiment turned to the obvious alternative:
nuclear. Or as they patriotically say in texas: nucular.
Now, instead of getting calls from my friend tacha asking if we
really do waste power and don't pay for it, like the news broadcast
said, all island residents can be proud that we not only add no
further drain to the state's power grid, but actually supply much
more than we could ever use. At least during the day, when peak
usage is most problematic and I don't have to put up with the whining
noise of my backyard reactor.
There is a wealth of information on the internet on how nuclear
power works, but the big problem isn't getting the information or
building the reactor, it's all about the fuel. The united states
has some rather totalitarian laws about buying uranium. I started
in chinatown, which is the often a good place to start looking for
generally illicit things to buy. Digging through the fireworks,
video-cds, bootleg software, shark fins, ivory, tiger serum and
pet monkeys was fun, but didn't turn up the quantity of nuclear
fuel you'd imagine the neighborhood, that exports nearly every sort
of thing from communist china, would have available. I thought that
perhaps the russians would be a better source.
Unfortunately, while pointing can get you anything in chinatown,
buying things from russians requires some knowledge of their language.
And the only bit of russian I can recall sounds something like:
"ya gavaru pa russki ochen plocha." While this is a fine starting
point for conversation among russians, it doesn't help if that's
all you really know how to say. Besides, most of san francisco's
russian population are rather innocent in the ways of obtaining
nuclear fuel. Strike two.
I decided to give the internet another chance. Despite the poor
shape of internet commerce in general, there is one thing that is
selling on the internet, besides bawdy pictures. And Pokemon. General
auction stuff! I wasn't about to get involved in some scheme to
deal with iranian terrorists and risk getting shot or developing
parkinsons. So the obvious alternative was scouting out ebay for
residual fuel from otherwise worthless stuff available for auction.
I started with a laundry list of sources of potential fuels available
over-the-counter. I considered trying to extract and enrich the
americium-241 from smoke detectors, but there aren't many for sale
on ebay, and island warnings not to tamper with our own smoke detectors
stopped that plan in its tracks. Various other
things in the house could be radioactive, but not enough to
reach the critical
mass to enable controlled fission.
Medical equipment of various kinds was available. After a great
deal of dealing, I ended up with a great deal of scrap metal and
a very small amount of radioactive material. Once again, it wasn't
the right material for energy production. Then it hit me: forget
the internet; try fidonet
and get in touch with some truly desperate people.
For those of you who weren't on the net before the web, or before
the internet as we know it, fidonet is the universal modem and mail
system that let kids exchange ideas with minds in the former soviet
union, before it was the former soviet union. While the feds probably
monitor most of the uranium talk on the internet, fidonet is still
around and pretty much big brother free.
Using the babelfish-like promt,
you don't even need to be able to speak russian well. As always
with machine language translation, the emails got a bit garbled.
But in the end I had the uranium I needed to get started. Plus,
I unloaded all the phosphorus-32 and iodine-131 I had lying around
to someone in need in the ukraine, along with the full library of
nbc's friends on vhs.
Along with the fuel, I got addition pointers on how to build my
simple reactor. I used the shell of an an old washing machine and
packed the inside with quickset concrete, and then covered the interior
in aluminum foil, just to be on the safe side. I'm now to the point
where, at full capacity, I can create enough steam to run a series
of makeshift generators really fast for about eight hours before
one of them breaks down and I need to do some repairs. I circulate
my hot water into the bay, which it seems has a somewhat dampening
effect on the early afternoon wind.
The worst part is having to deal with the end waste. At some point,
I'll have a full quart of spent stuff that I just don't know what
to do with. In the meantime, however, the navy's island substation
in oakland is basically idle, and the meter is actually running
backward. Next time you visit the island, feel free to turn your
lights on and just leave them. And tacha, tell your mom she can
come over and do her ironing anytime she wants. More information
on nuclear power:
power: a reference handbook
environmental case for nuclear power
encyclopedia of atomic energy