MAY 22, 2020 11:16 AM PDT

3-D Printing a Future with Affordable and Sustainable Nuclear Energy

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

(Pixabay/ZMorph3D)

Admittedly, conventional nuclear plants are costly to build, proliferation-risky, and hazard-prone. To bring atomic energy into the 21st century, the industry has dedicated a lot of effort in refurbishing existing reactors to improve safety and efficiency, as well as developing safe, secure, and sustainable new technologies to produce low-carbon power. 

Early May, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) demonstrated a newly designed reactor core. Unlike anything built before, which usually involves intensive fabrications in advanced machine shops, the core's structurally complex parts were constructed using a 3D printer under $1000

This innovation is a result of ORNL's Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) Demonstration Program, an institute-wide endeavor that leverages scientific advances from various fields such as material engineering, nuclear science, high-performance computing and data analytics.

In the TCR program, researchers used direct energy deposition (DED), a type of additive 3D printing technology that melts and fuses material, to fabricate parts for the reactor core. To ensure the quality of the printed material, they employed infrared imaging to monitor the printing process and artificial intellegence to check the finished parts. 

Transformational Challenge Reactor's Reactor Core Part 3D Printing (ORNL)

The 3D printing approach is among many ongoing attempts to bring down the cost of construction. For example, this March Energy Impact Center (EIC), a research-based non-profit, released its open-sourced blueprint for building a nuclear plant. The free-for-all masterplan can help accelerate the adoption of sustainable nuclear energy, thanks to its inexpensive and standardized platform that does not compromise in quality and safety.

Unlike many costly plants that took over a decade in construction, scientists at ORNL are hoping to bring the first-of-its-kind reactor online before 2023, by continuing their pursuit of the TCR program.

The progress that they have made so far leave few in doubt. The program has completed several proof-of-concept experiments, which include finishing the prototype reactor core built by their additive manufacturing technology. ORNL researchers believe that by bringing together the laboratory's 77 years-worth knowledges and their industry-leading expertise, the Department of Energy (DOE)-affiliated institute can chart a new course in the nuclear energy.

Sources: Futurism/ORNL

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
JUN 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Resistant Weeds Killer Risks Water Contamination
JUN 18, 2020
Resistant Weeds Killer Risks Water Contamination
It's a story that sounds way too familiar: scientists find a chemical to kill weeds and increase crop production, th ...
JUN 16, 2020
Technology
How True Is Teleportation?
JUN 16, 2020
How True Is Teleportation?
Teleporting worlds is something only seen through the lens of science fiction. For example, many Star Trek fans can reca ...
JUL 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Bigger Isn't Always Better: CERN's Super Accelerator Plan Stirs Intense Debates
JUL 10, 2020
Bigger Isn't Always Better: CERN's Super Accelerator Plan Stirs Intense Debates
Let's dial the clock back in 2012.  This year was marked by a major scientific breakthrough - the discovery of ...
AUG 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecular additives enhace solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiency
AUG 12, 2020
Molecular additives enhace solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiency
A new study featured in Soft Matter has demonstrated an innovative technique for enhancing solar cell performance and st ...
AUG 31, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Using Green Light to Create Molecular Bonds
AUG 31, 2020
Using Green Light to Create Molecular Bonds
In a first, researchers have used acidity and alkalinity - pH as a switch that can turn a green light-activated bonding ...
SEP 09, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Photovoltaic paint has endless potential
SEP 09, 2020
Photovoltaic paint has endless potential
A team from the Photo-electronic Hybrids Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST)&nb ...
Loading Comments...