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Archive for the ‘nuclear energy’ category

Sep 11, 2019

Students make neutrons dance beneath UC Berkeley campus

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nuclear energy

In an underground vault enclosed by six-foot concrete walls and accessed by a rolling, 25-ton concrete-and-steel door, University of California, Berkeley, students are making neutrons dance to a new tune: one better suited to producing isotopes required for geological dating, police forensics, hospital diagnosis and treatment.

Dating and forensics rely on a spray of neutrons to convert atoms to radioactive isotopes, which betray the chemical composition of a substance, helping to trace a gun or reveal the age of a rock, for example. Hospitals use isotopes produced by neutron irradiation to kill tumors or pinpoint diseases like cancer in the body.

For these applications, however, only nuclear reactors can produce a strong enough spray of neutrons, and there are only two such reactors west of the Mississippi.

Sep 8, 2019

Jupiter Magnetic Field Simulated Using CERN High Energy Electron Beam

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, particle physics, space travel

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is most famous for its particle collider, but it also has facilities that can test for other high-energy environments similar to those found in space. Now those facilities are being used to test future spacecraft to see if they are radiation-proof.

The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, mission in 2022. Before then, ESA scientists wanted to know what kinds of environmental stresses the explorer will be subjected to when it braves Jupiter’s massive magnetic field. The magnetic field has a volume of a million times that of Earth’s magnetosphere, and trapped within the field are energetic charged particles. These particles form radiation belts which bombard visiting craft with high levels of radiation, which can be harmful to electronics.

To see how the JUICE hardware will handle this radiation, the ESA has borrowed the world’s most intense radiation beam — one located at a CERN facility called VESPER (Very energetic Electron facility for Space Planetary Exploration missions in harsh Radiative environments). Now it is working alongside CERN to develop the testing protocol for other future missions too, such as the proposed Ice Giants mission to Neptune and Uranus.

Sep 5, 2019

How America’s First Digitally Operated Reactor Could Push Nuclear Technology Forward

Posted by in categories: education, engineering, geopolitics, internet, nuclear energy

“We can send signals to areas, such as schools in developing countries, that do not have the luxury of their own nuclear reactor facility and the associated educational infrastructure.” said Seungjin Kim, head of the Purdue’s School of Nuclear Engineering, in a July announcement. “As long as they have internet and this partnership with Purdue, they can see and study how the reactor works.”

PUR-1’s completion comes amidst a hunt for the next generation of nuclear tech. There are traveling wave reactors, which would hypothetically consume today’s nuclear waste and has garnered the interest of investors like Bill Gates. Then there are thorium reactors, which would would use less uranium and produce far less waste in the first place and has been promoted by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Neither technology has been put into civilian practice yet.

Continue reading “How America’s First Digitally Operated Reactor Could Push Nuclear Technology Forward” »

Sep 3, 2019

Nation’s first all-digital nuclear reactor dedicated at Purdue

Posted by in categories: economics, education, nuclear energy

Purdue University will support public and private research partnerships at the nation’s first digitally operated nuclear reactor, the school said in a Tuesday press release. Scientists and engineers will look to answer the question of how reliable and resilient an all-digital nuclear reactor, named Purdue University Reactor Number One (PUR-1), can be.

“As the United States and the world continue to implement digital technology, that introduces both strengths and vulnerabilities that need to be explored and understood because our economy relies on the resiliency of these systems,” Clive Townsend, supervisor for the reactor, said in a statement.

Before PUR-1 was converted to digital technology, all US reactors worked using analog technology like vacuum tubes and hand-soldered wires, Townsend said in the release. Purdue’s facility will be the US’ first cyber-nuclear testbed for researchers and corporate partners. It’s licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which ensures safe use of radioactive materials.

Sep 3, 2019

People once used nuclear radiation to grow really big plants

Posted by in categories: government, nuclear energy

After WW II, a government program aimed to find a peaceful use for nuclear power. And thus, the atomic garden was born.

Sep 1, 2019

A Very Fast, Very Safe, Very SLIMM Nuclear Reactor

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

The SLLIM is a liquid sodium nuclear fast reactor that generates 10 to 100 MW for many years, even decades, without refueling. It can’t meltdown, can operate without water, is factory fabricated and shipped to the construction site where it is installed below ground in a seismic-resistant cocoon.

Aug 29, 2019

How This Unconventional Oxford Startup Plans To Win The Fusion Energy Race

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

Fusion energy startup First Light Fusion is working towards demonstrating “first fusion” before the end of the year, in their Oxford-based laboratory. If they succeed, they join only a few companies and research groups on the path to demonstrating “gain,” where the energy created outstrips the energy required to start the reaction, which they hope to do by 2024.

Demonstrating gain is the key marker of success and the proof required for the industry to start building the commercial infrastructure to scale the technology, but no company or research group has managed it yet. The history of fusion is littered with a few high-profile failures, prompting many to believe the “it’s always 30 years away” narrative, but with investment in the space heating up with more private investors starting to see the potential in recently-formed startups, belief in fusion is growing again.

In the fusion energy race, it’s arguably anybody’s game among the few key global leaders of both startups and publicly-funded research efforts. There’s the huge international research effort in the south of France, ITER, looking to demonstrate first plasma–not gain–at the end of 2025. And there’s the various startups with their different technological approaches attracting private funding worldwide, such as TAE with $600 million funding in Los Angeles, Boston-based Commonwealth Fusion Systems with $115 million raised in June and General Fusion with over $100 million based in British Columbia. In the U.K., Tokamak Energy has raised over $50 million.

Aug 28, 2019

Kilopower: NASA’s Offworld Nuclear Reactor

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, particle physics, sustainability, transportation

General Motors is the latest automaker reported to be working on solid-state lithium batteries, thanks to a $2 million grant from Uncle Sam.

The money is part of a larger grant to develop more fuel-efficient powertrains, CNET reported. The company is expected to use the rest of the money to develop a lighter-weight, more efficient engine for medium duty trucks, perhaps to replace the company’s 6.2-liter V-8.

Continue reading “Kilopower: NASA’s Offworld Nuclear Reactor” »

Aug 26, 2019

New details on Russia’s mysterious missile disaster suggest a nuclear reactor blew up

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

An explosion at a Russian weapons testing site in August released radioactive isotopes that almost certainly came from a nuclear reactor, experts say.

Aug 25, 2019

Russian Health Officials Blame ‘Fukushima Crabs’ for Cesium-137 Exposure After Mysterious Accident

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

A doctor who treated survivors of a mysterious nuclear accident in Russia was told that the radioactive isotope cesium-137 must have made its way into their body due to “Fukushima crabs,” according to CNN.

The August 8 incident at the Nyonoksa testing range on a platform in the White Sea has not yet been fully explained, but at least seven individuals have been reported dead after what nuclear agency Rosatom described as an accident involving an “isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine.” It later emerged that the incident was serious enough that Russian officials in Arkhangelsk wavered over the issue of whether to issue evacuation orders for nearby towns. While several of the personnel deaths were due to an onsite explosion, the Washington Post reported this week (citing the Novaya Gazeta newspaper) that two individuals had died of radiation exposure before they could be taken to Moscow for treatment.

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