Skip to comments.US teen designs compact nuclear reactor
Posted on 03/04/2013 11:01:00 AM PST by Red Badger
Eighteen-year-old Taylor Wilson has designed a compact nuclear reactor that could one day burn waste from old atomic weapons to power anything from homes and factories to space colonies.
The American teen, who gained fame four years ago after designing a fusion reactor he planned to build in the garage of his family's home, shared his latest endeavor at a TED Conference in southern California on Thursday. "It's about bringing something old, fission, into the 21st Century," Wilson said. "I think this has huge potential to change the world." He has designed a small reactor capable of generating 50-100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power as many as 100,000 homes. The reactor can be made assembly-line style and powered by molten radioactive material from nuclear weapons, Wilson said. The relatively small, modular reactor can be shipped sealed with enough fuel to last for 30 years. "You can plop them down anywhere in the world and they work, buried under the ground for security reasons," he said, while detailing his design at TED. "In the Cold War we built up this huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and we don't need them anymore," Wilson said. "It would be great if we could eat them up, and this reactor loves this stuff." His reactors are designed to spin turbines using gas instead of steam, meaning they operate at temperatures lower than those of typical nuclear reactors and don't spew anything if there is a breach. The fuel is in the form of molten salt, and the reactors don't need to be pressurized, according to the teenager. "In the event of an accident, you can just drain the core into a tank under the reactor with neutron absorbers and the reaction stops," Wilson said. "There is no inclination for the fission products to leave this reactor," he said. "In an accident, the reactor may be toast, which is sorry for the power company, but there is no problem." Wilson, who graduated grade school in May, said he is putting off university to focus on a company he created to make Modular Fission Reactors. He sees his competition as nations, particularly China, and the roadblocks ahead as political instead of technical. Wilson planned to have a prototype ready in two years and a product to market in five years. "Not only does it combat climate change, it can bring power to the developing world," Wilson said with teenage optimism. "Imagine having a compact reactor in a rocket designed by those planning to habitat other planets. Not only would you have power for propulsion, but power once you get there."
From his Site:
My name is Taylor Wilson, I am 16 currently living in Reno, NV, originally from Texarkana, AR. My life revolves around Nuclear Science and Radioactivity. I have an exceedingly large collection of Historically-minded Radioactive Items, two laboratories, and my pride-and-joy, a Farnsworth Fusor reactor. I am the youngest person in the world to create Nuclear Fusion and the 31st person to do it privately outside of government and industry. With the reactor I have the capability to make stable elements radioactive, and I conduct research in the fields of basic fusion science, homeland security, and nuclear medicine.
I currently attend both the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Davidson Academy of Nevada, where I am finishing up High School. The Davidson Academy is the only school of its kind in the nation and caters to the Profoundly Gifted in the top one tenth of one percent of the population.
I have a lab at my house which houses my collection and where I conduct most Nuclear Chemistry work, chemistry on the Actinides, detector development, and source handling in glove-boxes and other specialized equipment. Also, I have a lab kindly given to me by Dr. Ron Phaneuf at the University of Nevada, Reno, in which my reactor resides, and my neutron source development research, along with other large scale experiments, is conducted.
Along with applied nuclear science, I enjoy researching Nuclear History. Not simply digging through archives, but taking it to the field, getting my hands dirty, and collecting artifacts from the nuclear age. I also enjoy Uranium Prospecting, and exploring sites relating Nuclear History, Military History, Mining History, and anything outdoors in general.
And like any normal teenager, I enjoy sports, specifically Football and Golf and having a social life! And yes I am a Southerner, so dont mind the accent!
How did you get a Phys.Org article to post on FR? The last time I tried, there was a popup saying they were not welcome because they’re owned by Bloomberg or someone like that.
“And like any normal teenager, I enjoy sports, specifically Football and Golf and having a social life! And yes I am a Southerner, so dont mind the accent, and would ya hold muh beer a minute?!
Doesn't sound all that bright to me. Looks more like he has succumbed to the public school liberal kool-aid.
Sorry, Taylor, but as President Obama has stated, you didn’t build that. You are merely a cog in the machine of tax payers. Now get back to work, comrade!
I have posted PhysOrg articles for years..........
Perhaps you are thinking of Science Daily or Wired.............
More power to him. This is what the nuclear industry needs. Smaller plants more widely distributed.
Those statements caught my eye too. Funny that our enemies don’t agree that nukes are not needed anymore. If anything, they are ramping up their supply or trying to develop them for their countries. Not for friendly use either I am sure...
I’ve read about them before. I wish they would start deploying some of them. Huge plants like Fukishima are no longer viable.
You could have a Pebbel-Bed-Reactor small enough to run your house, sitting outside next to your AC compressor unit, and never have to rely on the electric company again.......That’s why they will not be built...........
I remember reading about this reactor design many years ago, in Scientific American (when it was still worth reading.)
The safety features are quite interesting!
“When the nuclear fuel increases in temperature, the rapid motion of the atoms in the fuel causes an effect known as Doppler broadening. The fuel then sees a wider range of relative neutron speeds. Uranium-238, which forms the bulk of the uranium in the reactor, is much more likely to absorb fast or epithermal neutrons at higher temperatures. This reduces the number of neutrons available to cause fission, and reduces the power of the reactor. Doppler broadening therefore creates a negative feedback because as fuel temperature increases, reactor power decreases. All reactors have reactivity feedback mechanisms, but the pebble bed reactor is designed so that this effect is very strong and does not depend on any kind of machinery or moving parts. Because of this, its passive cooling, and because the pebble bed reactor is designed for higher temperatures, the pebble bed reactor can passively reduce to a safe power level in an accident scenario. This is the main passive safety feature of the pebble bed reactor, and it makes the pebble bed design (as well as other very high temperature reactors) unique from conventional light water reactors which require active safety controls.
The reactor is cooled by an inert, fireproof gas, so it cannot have a steam explosion as a light-water reactor can. The coolant has no phase transitionsit starts as a gas and remains a gas. Similarly, the moderator is solid carbon; it does not act as a coolant, move, or have phase transitions (i.e., between liquid and gas) as the light water in conventional reactors does.
A pebble-bed reactor thus can have all of its supporting machinery fail, and the reactor will not crack, melt, explode or spew hazardous wastes. It simply goes up to a designed “idle” temperature, and stays there. In that state, the reactor vessel radiates heat, but the vessel and fuel spheres remain intact and undamaged. The machinery can be repaired or the fuel can be removed. These safety features were tested (and filmed) with the German AVR reactor. All the control rods were removed, and the coolant flow was halted. Afterward, the fuel balls were sampled and examined for damage and there was none.”
The oil industry and politicians will find a way to hamstring him
And a feasible electric car.
This kid is amazing, a modern-day Edison. I think we should expect to see great things from him in the coming decades.
Just one problem with a nuclear powered electric car: How do you shut it off?.........;^)
He'll be OK as long as it doesn't look like a gun. /s
Sounds like a redo of molten salt reactors.
But in a much smaller package........
Something for engineers to work out. It would be sweet to plug your car in when you got home not to charge but to power your house.
The concept has been proved but why it hasn't been scaled down over the last fifty years....
LOL - or a mountain that looks like a gun or a finger that ....
Well, they don't call them "weapons" for nuthin'!
Gas is better than steam?
Yes..........Steam can kill you!.......And it’s a greenhouse gas!..........;^)
You don’t shut it off, you use it to run your house when you get home.
Unfortunately, a later study paints a slightly different picture. The above comment is from a single excursion test. Long-term usage demonstrates high and unacceptable wear and leakage of radioactive byproducts from the "pebbles". This was hashed out some time back here on FR, with a link to the study. PBR---not yet ready for prime time.
There are several companiesthat already produce compact nuclear reactors. One in Texas...
From the comments on the thread posted...
The technology to do this has been available for decades. One reason this idea hasn’t taken off much earlier is that it’ll give everyone the ability to easily create a radiological “dirty bomb”.
report tscati Mar 01, 2013 Rank: 2.3 / 5 (6)
And what are you left with after 30 years? A box full of candy? Or a box full of radioactive waste that needs to be stored for 300 generations?
report antialias_physorg Mar 01, 2013 Rank: 2.3 / 5 (12)
Why, candy of course!The local energy provider will conveniently go out of business a few days before expiration date. No one will feel responsible for the stuff - and people will just leave them dotted around the landscape because it’s too expensive to dig up and store. At least until the containment rots and the stuff leaks into the groundwater - but who cares about that?Just being my regular, cynical self. I’m sure all companies all over the world will shun no cost to responsibly dispose of it.Riiiiight.
Sounds like.............. a BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY TO ME!......
I’m sure that some laws could be put in place to locate and track (Cell GPS?) each and every power unit manufactured that would be monitored 24/7/365 via computer and satellite.
As the units approach their end of useful life they would be removed and disposed and/or recycled. My personal favorite, launching all nuclear waste into the Sun, could be a really cheap way to dispose of massive amounts of the bad stuff........