JUL 11, 2017 6:00 AM PDT

The Future of Nuclear Power

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Although many have questioned its overall safety and cost benefits, nuclear power remains a major workhorse in low-carbon power generation today. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has identified three technologies as the keys to the future success of nuclear energy: fast reactors, small modular reactors, and fusion reactors.

Fast reactors, also known as fast-neutron reactors, have been extensively investigated and widely deployed across the globe. Reactors that use this technology require no neutron moderating medium such as light and heavy water, and graphite, which are essential for transforming fast neutrons (high in kinetic energy) into thermal neutrons (key to sustain fission) in conventional reactors. Although fast reactors consume fuels that are more enriched, they generate less toxic nuclear waste, dramatically reduce the decay time of the waste, and exhaust almost all its fuel material (high burnup rate).

Small modular reactors are smaller in size, manufactured at a central location, and ready for shipment by trucks and planes to application site. This technology requires less on-site construction and a smaller budget, satisfies the electricity needs of remote communities, and come with built-in passive safety measure to ensure a meltdown-free operation.

Related reading: Small modular reactors to be a part of Canada's Low-Carb Energy Diet

Unlike the two more tangible options mentioned above, fusion-based power generation is far from maturity. Despite having many advantages over fission-based reactors like reduced radiation and waste, almost endless fuel, and increased safety, fusion reactions in controlled environment are still facing technical challenges such as plasma heating and stability, confinement and exhaust of energy and particles, reactor safety and environmental compatibility, not to mention the overblown budgets for construction and testing. Large scale fusion projects include International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France and National Ignition Facility (NIF) in US. Considerable amount of progress has been made since mid last century, but so far none of experimented design has managed to produce positive net energy in a meaningful time window to allow power generation.

Source: IAEA

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
SEP 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Colorimetric sensor detects presence of airborne pathogens
SEP 12, 2020
Colorimetric sensor detects presence of airborne pathogens
The development of a novel colorimetric sensor may bring some mental relief to your COVID-19 anxieties. According to the ...
OCT 05, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Improving microbial elecrosynthesis
OCT 05, 2020
Improving microbial elecrosynthesis
New research from a KAUST team highlights the development of a semiconductive photocatalyst that recycles CO2 and c ...
OCT 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Imagining the sunspots of other solar systems
OCT 10, 2020
Imagining the sunspots of other solar systems
A recent study published in the Astrophysical Journal takes a new look at sunspots in order to understand stellar activi ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
OCT 29, 2020
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
Try imagining a fictional conversation between Issac Newton and Albert Einstein: "The apple falls toward the ground ...
NOV 09, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Science Behind Wine Fraud Prevention
NOV 09, 2020
The Science Behind Wine Fraud Prevention
Wine comes in a wide range of flavors and prices. Wine fraud, in which cheaply produced wine is passed off as the expens ...
NOV 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
NOV 20, 2020
The Passing of a Neutrino Hunting Pioneer
Masatoshi Koshiba, a revered Japanese physicist known for his groundbreaking work on cosmic neutrino detection, passed a ...
Loading Comments...