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. 

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
MAR 21, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 21, 2020
Making underwater solar cells more efficient
New research published in the journal Joule suggests that wide-band gap semiconductors are more effective in underw ...
MAR 31, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 31, 2020
Pandemic in Silico: How Maths Modeling Helps Our COVID Fight
The phrase "flattening the curve" is used frequently these days by epidemiologists to describe various measure ...
APR 15, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 15, 2020
Pandemic Maths: Why Time Doesn't Matter in Understanding Infection Trajectory
There's no doubt that a lot of our current attention goes to the COVID-19 infection cases, as media outlets publish ...
APR 22, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 22, 2020
Using Colors To Track The Spread of Drug Particles
Forensic scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are relying on color to see the sprea ...
MAY 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 10, 2020
Astronomers Discover Earth's Nearest Black Hole Yet
Black holes are a niche part of astronomy that have captivated some of the greatest astronomers and physicists for decad ...
MAY 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 24, 2020
The debate on using oilfield produced water for crop irrigation continues
In an attempt to determine whether it is safe to use oilfield produced water for crop irrigation, a team of researchers ...
Loading Comments...