Archive for the ‘nuclear energy’ category: Page 51

Dec 5, 2020

China Just Turned On Its Artificial Sun

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

Now that EAST has switched on for what its makers say is the real deal, the project has a lot to prove. It costs a huge amount of energy input to bring a tokamak reactor’s entire assembly up to speed. If a fusion reactor can’t easily outpace that input, it will never produce power, let alone the dream of virtually limitless power that fusion proponents have sold for decades.

China has switched on its record-setting “artificial sun” tokamak, state media reported today. This begins a timeline China hopes will be similar to the one planned by the global International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.

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Dec 4, 2020

China Just Powered Up Its “Artificial Sun” Fusion Reactor

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

China is getting serious about nuclear fusion energy.

Dec 2, 2020

Why the Future of Nuclear Power Is Tiny and Factory-Made

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, particle physics

In the 1950s, few things seemed more futuristic and utopian than harnessing nuclear energy to power your home. Towering nuclear reactors popped up across the U.S. with the promise of harvesting energy from smashed atoms of Uranium to power everything from lights in an office to an oven cooking a pot roast. With clean and efficient nuclear power, anything seemed possible.

But as the years went on, doubt about the safety of these reactors began to poison the bright future they’d once promised. Stories of nuclear waste polluting waterways downstream of power plants began to stir alarm, and in the 1980s the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion sent radiation billowing across Europe and into the tissues of an estimated 4,000 Ukrainians who died from radiation poisoning. Even as recently as 2011, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant faced catastrophe when a tsunami knocked out its power supply and led all three of its nuclear reactors to melt down.

All in all, it’s been a tough few decades for nuclear energy’s public image. But nuclear scientists say that now, more than ever, is the time to reinvest in nuclear innovation. Governments agree: In the U.K. Rolls-Royce plans to roll out 16 mini-nuclear plants over the next five years and China, an emerging nuclear super power, has pledged to ramp up its nuclear use to meet emissions goals.

Dec 1, 2020

Rivers could generate thousands of nuclear power plants worth of energy, thanks to a new ‘blue’ membrane

Posted by in categories: chemistry, nanotechnology, nuclear energy

There are several ways to generate power from that mixing. And a couple of blue energy power plants have been built. But their high cost has prevented widespread adoption. All blue energy approaches rely on the fact that salts are composed of ions, or chemicals that harbor a positive or negative charge. In solids, the positive and negative charges attract one another, binding the ions together. (Table salt, for example, is a compound made from positively charged sodium ions bound to negatively charged chloride ions.) In water, these ions detach and can move independently.

By pumping the positive ions—like sodium or potassium—to the other side of a semipermeable membrane, researchers can create two pools of water: one with a positive charge, and one with a negative charge. If they then dunk electrodes in the pools and connect them with a wire, electrons will flow from the negatively charged to the positively charged side, generating electricity.

In 2013, French researchers made just such a membrane. They used a ceramic film of silicon nitride—commonly used in industry for electronics, cutting tools, and other uses—pierced by a single pore lined with a boron nitride nanotube (BNNT), a material being investigated for use in high-strength composites, among other things. Because BNNTs are highly negatively charged, the French team suspected they would prevent negatively charged ions in water from passing through the membrane (because similar electric charges repel one another). Their hunch was right. They found that when a membrane with a single BNNT was placed between fresh- and saltwater, the positive ions zipped from the salty side to the fresh side, but the negatively charged ions were mostly blocked.

Nov 23, 2020

Laser fusion reactor approaches ‘burning plasma’ milestone

Posted by in category: nuclear energy

After a decade, National Ignition Facility nears a self-heated, sustained reaction, though net energy gain is still elusive.

Nov 22, 2020

Cracking the Secrets of an Emerging Branch of Physics: Exotic Properties to Power Real-World Applications

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, nuclear energy, physics

In a new realm of materials, PhD student Thanh Nguyen uses neutrons to hunt for exotic properties that could power real-world applications.

Thanh Nguyen is in the habit of breaking down barriers. Take languages, for instance: Nguyen, a third-year doctoral candidate in nuclear science and engineering (NSE), wanted “to connect with other people and cultures” for his work and social life, he says, so he learned Vietnamese, French, German, and Russian, and is now taking an MIT course in Mandarin. But this drive to push past obstacles really comes to the fore in his research, where Nguyen is trying to crack the secrets of a new and burgeoning branch of physics.

“My dissertation focuses on neutron scattering on topological semimetals, which were only experimentally discovered in 2015,” he says. “They have very special properties, but because they are so novel, there’s a lot that’s unknown, and neutrons offer a unique perspective to probe their properties at a new level of clarity.”

Nov 20, 2020

Drones Solve a Nuclear Waste Mystery at Chernobyl

Posted by in categories: drones, nuclear energy

In 2019, Switzerland-based Flyability had a mystery to solve at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Was nuclear waste still present in one of the plant’s decommissioned reactors?

“At the time of the disaster, the fifth block of the Chernobyl Plant was under construction and nearing completion,” a Flyability spokesperson said. “Given the rush to leave, there was no record of whether the holding pools in Reactor Five had ever received the depleted uranium fuel bars for which they had been made.”

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Nov 18, 2020

Company Aims to Make Nuclear Reactors Pocket-Sized

Posted by in categories: education, nuclear energy

Hydrogen boron could be used essentially for radiationless portable reactors.

These reactors use gravity and buoyancy to spontaneously circulate the cooling water. Another selling point is the size. WIRED reports that it’s “about the size of two school buses stacked end to end, you could fit around 100 of them in the containment chamber of a large conventional reactor.”

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Nov 17, 2020

Novel analytic approach enhances nuclear magnetic resonance signal detection in previously ‘invisible’ regions

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, nuclear energy

First introduced into wide use in the middle of the 20th century, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has since become an indispensable technique for examining materials down to their atoms, revealing molecular structure and other details without interfering with the material itself.

“It’s a broadly used technique in , materials characterization, MRI—situations in which you do a non-invasive analysis, but with atomic and molecular details,” said UC Santa Barbara chemistry professor Songi Han. By placing a sample in a strong magnetic field and then probing it with radio waves scientists can determine from the response from the oscillating nuclei in the material’s atoms the of the material.

“However, the problem with NMR has been that because it’s such a low-energy technique, it’s not very sensitive,” Han said. “It’s very detailed, but you don’t get much signal.” As a result, large amounts of sample material may be needed relative to other techniques, and the signals’ general weakness makes NMR less than ideal for studying complex chemical processes.

Nov 15, 2020

Why NASA wants to put a nuclear power plant on the moon

Posted by in categories: nuclear energy, space

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy will seek proposals from industry to build a nuclear power plant on the moon and Mars to support its long-term exploration plans. The proposal is for a fission surface power system, and the goal is to have a flight system, lander and reactor in place by 2026.

Anthony Calomino, NASA’s nuclear technology portfolio lead within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said that the plan is to develop a 10-kilowatt class fission surface power system for demonstration on the moon by the late 2020s. The facility will be fully manufactured and assembled on Earth, then tested for safety and to make sure it operates correctly.

Afterwards, it will be integrated with a lunar lander, and a launch vehicle will transport it to an orbit around the moon. A lander will lower it to the surface, and once it arrives, it will be ready for operation with no additional assembly or construction required. The demonstration is expected to last for one year, and could ultimately lead to extended missions on the moon, Mars, and beyond.

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