Fusion reactors have long been touted as the “perfect” energy source. Proponents claim that when useful commercial fusion reactors are developed, they would produce vast amounts of energy with little radioactive waste, forming little or no plutonium byproducts that could be used for nuclear weapons. These pro-fusion advocates also say that fusion reactors would be incapable of generating the dangerous runaway chain reactions that lead to a meltdown—all drawbacks to the current fission schemes in nuclear power plants. As we move closer to our goal, however, it is time to ask: Is fusion really a “perfect” energy source? After having worked on nuclear fusion experiments for 25 years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement. I concluded that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite. fusion reactors that burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that are anything but harmless: Energetic neutron streams comprise 80 percent of the fusion energy output of deuterium-tritium reactions and 35 percent of deuterium-deuterium reactions. Now, an energy source consisting of 80 percent energetic neutron streams may be the perfectneutron source, but it’s truly bizarre that it would ever be hailed as the ideal electrical energy source. In fact, these neutron streams lead directly to four regrettable problems with nuclear energy: radiation damage to structures; radioactive waste; the need for biological shielding; and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239—thus adding to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it. In addition, if fusion reactors are indeed feasible—as assumed here—they would share some of the other serious problems that plague fission reactors, including tritium release, daunting coolant demands, and high operating costs. There will also be additional drawbacks that are unique to fusion devices: the use of fuel (tritium) that is not found in nature and must be replenished by the reactor itself; and unavoidable on-site power drains that drastically reduce the electric power available for sale.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 19th April 2017 read more »

Posted: 22 April 2017


Seaborg Technologies of Copenhagen is developing an advanced thorium-based molten salt reactor (MSR) and has received a grant from the public funding agency Innovation Fund Denmark, a move that marks the first Danish investment into nuclear fission research since a 1985 ban on nuclear energy. The decision to fund the reactor, known as the Seaborg CUBE-100 (short for Compact Used Fuel BurnEr), is the beginning of the first Danish venture into the development of novel fission reactor concepts, Seaborg said. NucNet editor-in-chief David Dalton spoke to Seaborg’s co-founders about the significance of the funding, the next steps on the road to commercialisation, and how attitudes towards nuclear in traditionally anti-nuclear Denmark are changing.

Nucnet 19th April 2017 read more »

Posted: 21 April 2017

Generation IV Reactors

Michael Fitzpatrick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Lloyd’s Register Foundation Chair in Structural Integrity and Systems Performance, Coventry University: High-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have given nuclear power a bad name. Despite 60 years of nuclear generation without major accidents in many countries including Britain and France, many people have serious concerns about the safety of nuclear energy and the impact of the radioactive waste it generates. The very high capital cost of building a plant is also seen as a significant barrier, particularly given recent low oil prices. Plans to build a new British plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are facing fresh opposition after it emerged the estimated lifetime costs had risen to £37 billion. Yet the high priority of reducing carbon emissions thanks to climate change means nuclear power looks more important than ever. Luckily, the next generation of reactors could hold the answer. With more in-built safety systems and a way to reuse old fuel, they are set to make nuclear power safer and, potentially, cheaper. Future reactor technologies –- so-called “Gen IV” designs – offer even better inherent safety. One of their key features are fully passive cooling systems so the reactor is never dependent on external power for safety. The reactor is carefully designed so that overheating actually reduces, rather than increases, the power output of the core. The core and cooling systems are not pressurised, and using liquids other than water for cooling prevents the risk of creating hydrogen: both of which drastically reduce the risk of explosions as occurred at Fukushima.

The Conversation 11th April 2017 read more »

Posted: 12 April 2017


A €10 million (£8.53m) nuclear fusion test centre will be hosted in the UK. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has announced a collaboration with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project to host the facility at its Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) centre for the next five years. The UK Government is investing €5 million (£4.27m) to fund the testing of critical remote handling operations necessary for the maintenance of components for the ITER fusion energy project, based in France. ITER will match this funding. The centre will be used to test and evaluate remote handling systems and provide operational feedback into the final component designs.

Energy Live News 10th April 2017 read more »

Posted: 11 April 2017


Though Cassidy remains an advisor at Google, he has quietly started a new company, Apollo Fusion. On Friday, a website for the firm, which previously consisted only of a definition of the phrase “nuclear fusion,” was updated to include a vision statement that gives a tantalizing peek into Cassidy’s plans. “We’re working on revolutionary hybrid reactor technology with fusion power to serve safe, clean, and affordable electricity to everyone,” reads the site. “Apollo Fusion power plants are designed for zero-consequence outcomes to loss of cooling or loss.

Bloomberg 3rd April 2017 read more »

Posted: 4 April 2017


The new nuclear project generating the most excitement in the U.S. is all about making things smaller. NuScale Power LLC, a company spun out of Oregon State University in 2007, plans to churn out small reactors on an assembly line, then sell them to utilities as six-packs or 12-packs. The company signed a deal last year with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy to build a power-generating facility in Idaho, and its design was accepted for review by the NRC earlier this month. All these reactors are of the same basic light-water design as existing U.S. commercial nuclear reactors, albeit with lots of safety and efficiency upgrades. There are also companies big and small working on next-generation (Generation IV, to use the lingo) reactors that use different technologies. A key theme of last week’s Breakthrough Institute report is that the U.S. government should be doing more to encourage small, entrepreneurial firms to lead the way.

Bloomberg 31st March 2017 read more »

Posted: 2 April 2017

Fast Reactors

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande on Monday confirmed bilateral cooperation in the research of the commercial use of nuclear power as well as in security. The two countries agreed on joint research on a French-led fast reactor development project called ASTRID, an acronym for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration. Abe and Hollande also attended a signing ceremony on a deal in which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. will each acquire a 5 percent stake in a nuclear fuel reprocessing joint venture to be established by French atomic energy company Areva.

Mainichi 21st March 2017 read more »

Posted: 22 March 2017


Cambridge will not be getting nuclear power any time soon, but a “small nuclear” fuel option could be on the table in the future if government decides it would be suitable. The option for nuclear energy to help the county’s energy provision was brought up at the general purposes committee at Cambridgeshire County Council today (March 21), but was quickly dismissed by councillors who said there was not enough evidence at this stage to determine whether it was right for the region.

Cambridge News 21st March 2017 read more »

Posted: 22 March 2017


Bechtel is to pull out of small modular reactor development, the US engineering giant has confirmed.

Construction News 17th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2017


NuScale Power is a company with a mission – to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America. As of now, they are certainly on track. In January, NuScale submitted the first design certification application for any SMR in the United States to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This week, a mere two months later, NRC has accepted their design certification application – light speed for our nuclear bureaucracy. By accepting the DCA for review, the NRC staff confirms that NuScale’s submission addresses all of the NRC requirements and contains sufficient technical information to conduct a full review. It seems NuScale has all its ducks in a row, absolutely critical for as fast a review and licensing as possible. Those ducks included about 12,000 pages of technical information from over 800 NuScale staff and about 40,000 NRC staff-hours in pre-application discussions and interactions.

Forbes 16th March 2017 read more »

Power Engineering 16th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 17 March 2017