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Archive for the ‘nuclear energy’ category

Jun 1, 2020

ARC reactor design uses superconducting magnets to draw fusion power closer

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, military, nuclear energy, particle physics

Circa 2015


Fusion power can seem a bit like the last bus at night; it’s always coming, but never arrives. MIT is working to change that with a new compact tokamak fusion reactor design based on the latest commercially available magnetic superconductor technology. The ARC (affordable, robust, compact) reactor design promises smaller, cheaper reactors that could make fusion power practical within 10 years.

A commercially viable fusion reactor has been the Holy Grail of engineering since the 1950s, with the potential to turn almost all other major electricity sources into an historical footnote overnight. If perfected, it would essentially be an inexhaustible source of power, impacting on almost every aspect of life, from the environment to global politics. The trick is making it practical.

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May 31, 2020

ARC: A compact, high-field, fusion nuclear science facility and demonstration power plant with demountable magnets

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, science

Circa 2015


The affordable, robust, compact (ARC) reactor is the product of a conceptual design study aimed at reducing the size, cost, and complexity of a combined fusion nuclear science facility (FNSF) and demonstration fusion Pilot power plant. ARC is a ∼200–250 MWe tokamak reactor with a major radius of 3.3 m, a minor radius of 1.1 m, and an on-axis magnetic field of 9.2 T. ARC has rare earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting toroidal field coils, which have joints to enable disassembly. This allows the vacuum vessel to be replaced quickly, mitigating first wall survivability concerns, and permits a single device to test many vacuum vessel designs and divertor materials. The design point has a plasma fusion gain of Qp ≈ 13.6, yet is fully non-inductive, with a modest bootstrap fraction of only ∼63%. Thus ARC offers a high power gain with relatively large external control of the current profile. This highly attractive combination is enabled by the ∼23 T peak field on coil achievable with newly available REBCO superconductor technology. External current drive is provided by two innovative inboard RF launchers using 25 MW of lower hybrid and 13.6 MW of ion cyclotron fast wave power. The resulting efficient current drive provides a robust, steady state core plasma far from disruptive limits. ARC uses an all-liquid blanket, consisting of low pressure, slowly flowing fluorine lithium beryllium (FLiBe) molten salt. The liquid blanket is low-risk technology and provides effective neutron moderation and shielding, excellent heat removal, and a tritium breeding ratio ≥ 1.1. The large temperature range over which FLiBe is liquid permits an output blanket temperature of 900 K, single phase fluid cooling, and a high efficiency helium Brayton cycle, which allows for net electricity generation when operating ARC as a Pilot power plant.

May 30, 2020

The Navy’s Patent for a Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is Wild

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, policy, space travel

Circa 2019


Scientists have longed to create the perfect energy source. Ideally, that source would eventually replace greenhouse gas-spewing fossil fuels, power cars, boats, and planes, and send spacecraft to remote parts of the universe. So far, nuclear fusion energy has seemed like the most likely option to help us reach those goals.

The big problem? It’s difficult to harness, and we’re nowhere near producing it at the scales we need in order to cause a seismic shift in energy policy. That’s why teams of researchers across the world are racing to improve our understanding of this reaction.

Continue reading “The Navy’s Patent for a Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is Wild” »

May 30, 2020

Oil giant joins Bill Gates-backed nuclear fusion plan for ‘game-changing zero-carbon energy’

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

Equinor among latest round of investors in MIT spin-off that aims to help show ‘net energy gain’ nuclear fusion by 2025.

May 30, 2020

Artificial intelligence is energy-hungry—new hardware could curb its appetite

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nuclear energy, robotics/AI

To just solve a puzzle or play a game, artificial intelligence can require software running on thousands of computers. That could be the energy that three nuclear plants produce in one hour.

A team of engineers has created hardware that can learn skills using a type of AI that currently runs on platforms. Sharing intelligence features between hardware and software would offset the energy needed for using AI in more advanced applications such as self-driving cars or discovering drugs.

“Software is taking on most of the challenges in AI. If you could incorporate intelligence into the circuit components in addition to what is happening in software, you could do things that simply cannot be done today,” said Shriram Ramanathan, a professor of materials engineering at Purdue University.

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May 27, 2020

Mobile Nuclear Microreactor Development: A Military-Civilian Symbiosis

Posted by in categories: computing, military, nuclear energy

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The US Department of Defense has been working with American companies for the past year on a project to develop a prototype for a portable nuclear microreactor, a device intended for use by the US military in security scenarios around the world. The US Department of Energy is also involved in the project, with the aim of providing electricity to remote sites that are difficult to link to the grid. The project thus represents a symbiosis between military and civilian technological development.

A symbiotic relationship between military and civilian aspects of technological development gained momentum in the US after the end of WWII. This was particularly visible among applications in the communication, computing, and aerospace fields, but was also present in the field of nuclear technology. Some technology projects were presented as dual-use in order to justify the cost of their development.

One example of nuclear energy symbiosis was the development of nuclear power-generating reactors. By 1956, more than a decade after the destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs, only the UK’s Calder Hall nuclear power plant, which had four reactors each producing 60 MW electricity (MWe), was in operation. However, as of December 2019, 443 nuclear power generators were operating worldwide, with a total output of 395 gigawatts electric (GWe)—an average output of nearly 900 MWe per reactor.

May 26, 2020

New material could be used to make a liquid metal robot

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, engineering, nuclear energy, robotics/AI

Eric Klien


A liquid metal lattice that can be crushed but returns to its original shape on heating has been developed by Pu Zhang and colleagues at Binghamton University in the US. The material is held together by a silicone shell and could find myriad uses including soft robotics, foldable antennas and aerospace engineering. Indeed, the research could even lead to the creation of a liquid metal robot evoking the T-1000 character in the film Terminator 2.

The team created the liquid metal lattice using a special mixture of bismuth, indium and tin known as Field’s alloy. This alloy has the relatively unusual property of melting at just 62 °C, which means it can be liquefied with just hot water. Field’s alloy already has several applications – including as a liquid-metal coolant for advanced nuclear reactors.

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May 21, 2020

Arms control experts concerned by Saudi nuclear reactor push

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead to complete its first nuclear reactor, according to satellite images that have raised concern among arms-control experts because the kingdom has yet to implement international monitoring rules.

May 12, 2020

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing a 3D printed nuclear reactor core

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, nuclear energy

Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are developing a nuclear reactor core using 3D printing.

As part of its Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) Demonstration Program, which aims to build an additively manufactured microreactor, ORNL has refined its design of the reactor core, while also scaling up the additive manufacturing process necessary to build it. Additionally, the researchers have established qualification methods to confirm the consistency and reliability of the 3D printed components used in creating the core.

“The nuclear industry is still constrained in thinking about the way we design, build and deploy nuclear energy technology,” comments ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia.

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May 11, 2020

Physicists Think They’ve Found a New Way to Stabilise And Control Fusion Reactors

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, physics

A team of research physicists at Princeton University may have found a new way to control fusion reactions inside doughnut-shaped tokamak reactors — an incremental step towards making fusion energy, the ‘holy grail of energy production’, a reality.

Many fusion reactors today use light elements in the form of plasma as fuel. The problem is that this elemental plasma is extremely hot — practically as hot as the Sun — and extremely unpredictable and difficult to control.

But there may be a way to force the plasma into doing what we want more predictably and efficiently, as detailed in a new theoretical paper published in the journal Physics of Plasmas.

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