Coming soon: Nuclear Reactor with 3D 3D Printed Core

Kurd Teran wants to Accelerate the future of nuclear energy – so it is a thing of the past. Over the past year and a half, Terran and a team of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists have set up and built components for a gas-cooled nuclear reactor at Oak Reed National Laboratory in Tennessee. This is the type of reactor that is almost as old as the nuclear era itself, but Oak Reed's latest atomic splitter has a distinctive 21st century destiny. When it hits the internet in 2023, it will be the first nuclear reactor in the world to have a 3D printed core.

"What we're doing is trying to figure out a faster way to build a higher-performance nuclear system," said Terran, technical director of the Oak Ridge Transformational Challenge Reactor. "The goal is to fundamentally change the course of nuclear action."

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The nuclear industry has a reputation for being incredibly conservative and resistant to change, and Terran says all of America’s nuclear reactors still use the technology they dreamed of half a century ago. "If it doesn't break, it won't fix it." Free energy. Terran is concerned that if the nuclear industry does not include new technology, it will soon disappear.

This is not to say that we should start building experimental nuclear power plants without proper diligence. The reason for the slow movement of the nuclear industry is that the cost of miscalculation is enormous – the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have been catastrophic, and no one wants to repeat them. But the aversion to risk has not stopped other dubious wealthy industries from adopting new technologies. Observe the airspace where companies are now using 3D printing to launch entire missiles, fly airplanes, and catch airplanes on airplanes. However, most of today's advanced reactors are not new at all; They changed the design of the reactors, which were successfully built decades ago. "We know that all these concepts work," said Terran. "The problem is that we can't make them fast enough and cheap enough."

Credit: Oak Reed National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Terrani and his colleagues are working on this. The Oak Ridge team has just completed a preliminary design for its 3D-printed core reactor challenge transformer, or TCR. While most of the reactor will be made from conventional components, the core will be entirely 3D-printed, made of silicon carbide, an extremely rough material that cannot be melted. The cylindrical core is domed with metallic silver, assembling several irregular non-angular fuels arranged in its center. This is where all the magic happens in the nuclear reactor: it is responsible for storing uranium fuel and components that control the reaction of the glare. The core created and printed on the Oak Ridge is less than a foot and a half long and will be housed in a reactor that is not much larger than a beer crust. When it launches online in 2023, Terrani says it will generate 3 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to meet the energy needs of more than the average home.