It’s a good thing we learned young not to touch the stove:
This nuclear reactor’[s]
thenew approach is a "super-hot" type of nuclear reactor cooled by helium gas, not water, and can reach 2000 degrees. That's about three times hotter than existing reactors.
Something went sic in this Fox News Oregon story. It’s about a new approach to nuclear energy that will be demonstrated at Oregon State University.
Construction began today on the $4.8 million facility meant to test a new nuclear energy technology that could be safer, more efficient and produce less waste than existing approaches.
Researchers say it is a viable and versatile energy concept for the future.
Researchers say it could produce electricity, hydrogen to power automobiles, steam to heat a building complex, or provide a cheaper way to desalinate seawater.
I admit that “hydrogen to power automobiles,” puzzled me. Are there cars that do that now?
If they can make the cars, we could use this technology to make the hydrogen," said Brian Woods, an associate professor of nuclear engineering and director of this project. "One of the biggest attractions of the high-temperature reactors is their versatility. They could be used in so many ways.”
Oh, okay, so we may say this goal is aspirational. Of course, we could just skip a step and have cars outfitted with a flux capacitor. Those I think can break the time barrier, useful when you’re late to work.
Snark aside, hydrogen cars are on their way. Here’s a story about a hydrogen powered Toyota due in 2015.
Executives from Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Volkswagen see fuel-cell vehicles as being further out, and most have not said when they'll have vehicles on the market.
In other words, around 2020. The future (if this works out) may be closer than it appears in the rear view mirror.
Let’s look at the source of the reactor project, Oregon State University. It certainly doesn’t undersell it:
Like any existing nuclear reactor, the high-temperature nuclear reactors could produce electricity – about 35-50 percent more efficiently than existing approaches. But they also create about half as much radioactive waste, by the nature of their design cannot melt down, and like all nuclear technologies produce no greenhouse gas emissions.
They could be cost-effectively built as small modular reactors, and produce super-heated steam that works well for powering large chemical companies or building complexes. As demand grows for fresh water in arid regions, they could offer a more cost-effective way to desalinate sea water.
And there’s more about the hydrogen cars:
And a promising potential is to produce hydrogen that could power the automobiles of the future, using efficient hydrogen fuel cells that leave only electricity and water as their byproducts. There are still obstacles to overcome in hydrogen transportation and storage, but a high-temperature nuclear reactor could directly split water, or H20, into hydrogen and oxygen, without emitting greenhouse gases.
The university seems less sure about them than Toyota and the other automakers.
The story says that the university expects this reactor approach could take hold commercially by the middle of the century, but that depends on it being able to scale successfully and for all the theoretical presumptions to work practically – and all that is before you hit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
It certainly could happen – we’re not gainsaying this project – but there will be a lot of milestones on the way to 2050. Well worth keeping an eye on, though. This is where the future of nuclear energy originates.