Tag Archives: MIT

CNA2016

Nuclear at Sea: Floating Reactors

As the world demand for energy heats up, some in the nuclear industry are looking to the world’s oceans to provide sites for the next generation of power plants.

In January, China General Nuclear (CGN) announced an agreement with the Chinese shipbuilding industry to develop a floating nuclear power plant designed to supply electricity, heat and desalination of water and could be used on islands or in coastal areas, or for offshore oil and gas exploration. The plant is expected to begin power generation by 2020.

Russia, meanwhile, expects its floating nuclear plant to start powering the Arctic this year.

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on power plants that can be assembled in a shipyard and then docked at sea.

Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, the associate head of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director, Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES), has been spearheading the project for two years.

“The idea is to integrate a nuclear reactor into a floating platform like the type used for oil and gas operations,” according to Buongiorno.

A whole plant, including the turbine and generator, would be built in a shipyard and then anchored a few miles offshore.

For the MIT team, floating reactors are the latest advancement in the field of nuclear technology.

“Economically, you can simplify the design and build it all in one place so you can build it faster,” says Buongiorno. They are more compact, so the amount of materials required for the construction would be less also keeping costs down.

With reactors out at sea, the threat of damage from weather events would be minimized. Waves from destructive storms are smaller out at sea than at the coastline. Also, having a nuclear power plant out at sea would mean a continuous supply of coolant.

“The reactor is under the water line so it becomes easy to use the ocean as a heat sink,” according to Dr. Buongiorno. “The heat exchanger discharges the heat into the ocean so you can’t run out of cooling.”

The group at MIT has a crowdsourcing page to help with the development of their power plant.

While the first floating power plant for this group of MIT researchers is still in the developing stages, Dr. Buongiorno and his team believe they can develop a new wave of floating nuclear plants that would be safe and cost effective in a variety of new applications.

CNA2015

CNA2015 Presents Transatomic Power Co-Founder Dr. Leslie Dewan

Leslie Dewan

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Dr. Leslie Dewan is a key figure in the future of nuclear power generation.

In 2011, she co-founded Transatomic Power, which is making steadfast progress towards commercializing an innovative molten salt reactor fueled by nuclear waste.

“We’re developing a new type of reactor that can run entirely on used nuclear fuel,” she says. “It consumes the fuel and it reduces its radioactive lifetime while at the same time generating an enormous amount of electricity.”

Dewan said the company is aiming to break ground on a demonstration facility within five years and have it operational a few years after that. “For the nuclear industry, it’s very fast-paced,” she says.

Since last July, Transatomic has raised $4.5 million in startup funds.

The new funding will be used for lab testing of key components involved with the reactor design, and for refinement of the design for a prototype reactor. The company will be testing materials under a three-year research agreement with the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.

Dr. Dewan graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, with a research focus on computational nuclear materials. She also holds S.B. degrees from MIT in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering.

“At MIT everyone around there was so excited about building crazy things and were just totally free and unrestrained in all the cool engineering projects they were putting together,” she recalls.

Before starting her Ph.D., she worked for a robotics company in Cambridge, MA, where she designed search-and-rescue robots and equipment for in-field identification of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

Leslie has been awarded a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship and an MIT Presidential Fellowship. She was named a TIME Magazine “30 People Under 30 Changing the World” in December 2013, an MIT Technology Review “Innovator Under 35” in September 2013, and a Forbes “30 Under 30” in Energy in December 2012.