Cool reactor technology

| 1 Comment
From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory comes the SSTAR -- Small, Sealed, Transportable, Autonomous Reactor: bq. Nuclear energy supplies 20 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. and 16 percent of that used throughout the world. But as the global use of nuclear energy grows, so do concerns about the vulnerability of nuclear plants and fuel materials to misuse or attacks by terrorists. A Livermore team is part of a Department of Energy (DOE) collaboration that is addressing both the growing need for nuclear energy and the concern over nuclear proliferation by pursuing a concept called SSTAR, a small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor. bq. SSTAR is designed to be a self-contained reactor in a tamper-resistant container. The goal is to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, heat, and freshwater. The design could also be adapted to produce hydrogen for use as an alternative fuel for passenger cars. The New Scientist also has a writeup: bq. A nuclear reactor that can meet the energy needs of developing countries without the risk that they will use the by-products to make weapons is being developed by the US Department of Energy. bq. The aim is to create a sealed reactor that can be delivered to a site, left to generate power for up to 30 years, and retrieved when its fuel is spent. The developers claim that no one would be able to remove the fissile material from the reactor because its core would be inside a tamper-proof cask protected by a thicket of alarms. And as always, the nay-sayers have their opinion: bq. The project faces strong political obstacles. Michael Levi of the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC, questions whether developing countries will be prepared to leave the keys to their electricity supply in the hands of the US. bq. He also doubts that SSTAR will be as proliferation-proof as the DoE hopes. While the design makes it hard for countries hosting the reactors to cheat without getting caught, "what happens if they don't care about what we think?" he asks. It would then be possible to break into the reactor and reprocess the plutonium-rich fuel to make weapons, he says. I think this is very cool technology and it would be a godsend for developing nations. A source of energy for lighting, clean water and sewage treatment, radio and internet for villages, refrigeration -- what's not to like...

1 Comment

If they took the secondary cooling and the electricity generation out of the "tamper proof" shell, could the innards converted to the non-Plutonium generating processes pretty please?

The thought of a large reservoir of Plutonium residing in an African country somewhere doesn't lead to confidence. The 'client' may be perfectly honest and aboveboard - but there's sufficient unrest near-everywhere for a brief cross-border excursion to be supremely irritating.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on September 3, 2004 1:36 PM.

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