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BYU profs create new nuclear reactor to produce nuclear energy more safely


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Wow I hope this pans out! And if it is scalable instead of just the small one to full city and grid production. No radioactive waste sounds terrific but I am a bit skeptical until they build some. But I will follow it if it develops.


"The standard nuclear reactor used in America is the Light-Water Reactor. Uranium atoms are split to create energy, and the products left over will radiate massive amounts of heat. They are kept in solid fuel rods, and water is run through the rods to keep everything cool enough. If there is not enough of a flow of cooling water, the rods can overheat, and the entire facility is at risk for a nuclear meltdown. Memmott’s solution is to store these radioactive elements in molten salt instead of fuel rods.

“Nuclear energy can be extremely safe and extremely affordable, if done the right way,” Memmott said. “It’s a very good solution to the energy situation we’re in because there are no emissions or pollution from it.”

In Memmott’s new reactor, during and after the nuclear reaction occurs, all the radioactive byproducts are dissolved into molten salt. Nuclear elements can emit heat or radioactivity for hundreds of thousands of years while they slowly cool, which is why nuclear waste is so dangerous (and why in the past, finding a place to dispose of it has been so difficult). However, salt has an extremely high melting temperature — 550°C — and it doesn’t take long for the temperature of these elements in the salt to fall beneath the melting point. Once the salt crystalizes, the radiated heat will be absorbed into the salt (which doesn’t remelt), negating the danger of a nuclear meltdown at a power plant.

Another benefit of the molten salt nuclear reactor design is that it has the potential to eliminate dangerous nuclear waste. The products of the reaction are safely contained within the salt, with no need to store them elsewhere. What’s more, many of these products are valuable, and can be removed from the salt and sold.

Molybdenum-99, for example, is an extremely expensive element used in medical imaging procedures and scans that can be extracted. The United States currently buys all of its Molybdenum-99 from the Netherlands, but with this reactor it can easily be made within the country, making it much more accessible and affordable. Cobalt-60, gold, platinum, neodymium, and many other elements can also be taken out of the salt, resulting in potentially no nuclear waste.

“As we pulled out valuable elements, we found we could also remove oxygen and hydrogen,” Memmott said. “Through this process, we can make the salt fully clean again and reuse it. We can recycle the salt indefinitely.”

A typical nuclear power plant is built with a little over one square mile to operate to reduce radiation risk, with the core itself being 30 ft x 30 ft. Memmott’s molten salt nuclear reactor is 4 ft x 7ft, and because there is no risk of a meltdown there is no need for a similar large zone surrounding it. This small reactor can produce enough energy to power 1000 American homes. The research team said everything needed to run this reactor is designed to fit onto a 40-foot truck bed; meaning this reactor can make power accessible to even very remote places."

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That to me, is outstanding news!

Some years ago I remember reading an article about scientists working on designing  some type of electricity generating device that was small enough that power companies could place one on every city block; which would eliminate city-wide blackouts.

I wonder if this what I was reading about? Anyway, this will be great for humanity IMO.

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Thanks for the article, RV_

Very interesting development in making nuclear energy more manageable and safer as well!  Come to think about it, current nuclear "powerplant" technology is over 75 years old, and its time to move to an improved method.  This would take nuclear power for submarines and ships to the next level!

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But even safer is fusion. Still the holy grail of power production.

Nuclear Fusion Energy Edges Closer With Super Magnets for Smaller Tokamaks

By Ed Browne On 7/26/22 at 9:03 AM EDT
"Researchers at a U.S. government nuclear fusion laboratory say they have found a way to downsize the huge magnets that are necessary for controlling fusion plasma in what they think is another step toward creating a viable fusion reactor.

Nuclear fusion refers to the process of joining two atomic nuclei together to form one, heavier atom. However, the mass of the new heavier atom is slightly less than that of the two individual atoms, and this leftover mass is released as energy that can be harnessed to produce electricity.

Nuclear fusion happens naturally all the time in the cores of stars, such as our sun, where hydrogen atoms are fused together to form helium under enormous heat and pressure. While scientists have managed to recreate nuclear fusion artificially, the problem is sustaining a reaction for long enough to viably power an electric grid."

Still 5-10 years from a working grid connected prototype, we are inching closer.



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