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May 22, 2021

Researchers develop advanced model to improve safety of next-generation reactors

Posted by in categories: engineering, nuclear energy, sustainability

When one of the largest modern earthquakes struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the nuclear reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi automatically shut down, as designed. The emergency systems, which would have helped maintain the necessary cooling of the core, were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Because the reactor could no longer cool itself, the core overheated, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Since then, reactors have improved exponentially in terms of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the light-water reactors at Fukushima, which had liquid coolant and , the current generation of reactors has a variety of coolant options, including molten-salt mixtures, supercritical water and even gases like helium.

Dr. Jean Ragusa and Dr. Mauricio Eduardo Tano Retamales from the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University have been studying a new fourth-generation , -bed reactors. Pebble-bed reactors use spherical fuel elements (known as pebbles) and a fluid coolant (usually a gas).

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