Chernobyl and Fukushima’s disasters have slowed down innovation in the nuclear energy sector. Nuclear energy is one of the most efficient forms of energy, but the nuclear reactors, it is generated in, have seen only a little improvement in the past years. This is because nuclear reactors need to extremely stable, and the majority of the engineers are of a point of view that if nothing is broken in them, let them run the way they are.
However, if innovation is not brought in this sector, according to Kurt Terrani, this sector of energy production will soon be obsolete. Kurt Terrani is a researcher at Oak Ridge. Along with a team of other scientists and engineers, Kurt Terrani is determined to build a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a core that is 3D printed.
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The design that Terrani and his team are proceeding with will mostly have conventional components, however, the atom splitter will be 3D printed using silicon carbide. Silicon Carbide is known for its high melting point and is the perfect material that could be used in the core of the reactor. The core of the reactor is said to be less than a foot-and-a-half tall, and the reactor it is housed in is not that big either.
With the availability of modern 3D printers, the entire core can be printed within twenty-four hours. Not just this, but engineers can also embed certain sensors into the core, while printing, it to have a better idea of what is happening inside the core once it is up and running. This could pave the way for further innovations in nuclear energy production.
The reactor is expected to be available for energy production by 2023, and according to Terrani, it can produce up to 3 megawatts of power.