Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab wanted to model and simulate the next generation of nuclear power facilities. While software that models a partial nuclear core or radiation transport exists in spades, the ORNL team wanted to model entire facilities at once. So they did what anyone would do: They started from scratch, merging a decade of research with the world's fastest supercomputer to build Denovo, the most sophisticated modeling software in the industry, to simulate entire nuclear facilities in one comprehensive snapshot.
Making U.S. Navy carrier groups and Army bases more self-sufficient and energy-efficient could mean turning to mobile nuclear reactors. The Pentagon's DARPA scientists have put forth the modest proposal of deploying miniature reactors to convert hydrogen and carbon into military jet fuel, as well as providing power, The Register reports.
There are plenty of reasons to disagree with President Obama and Bill Gates, but there's no denying that both men are profoundly smart. And when they start agreeing on something, lesser minds like us should probably take notice. In his recent TED talk, the former Microsoft chairman sided with the president in identifying nuclear power as the only economically viable option for providing a growing world with power, while stopping the CO2 emissions that cause global warming.
Proving there's no science like accidental science, Northwestern researchers looking for materials to facilitate ion exchange have discovered a "Venus flytrap" for radioactive cesium that has the potential filter out 100 percent of the nasty stuff in nuclear waste. Made of gallium, sulfur and antimony compound, the synthetic material is highly selective in what it will seize, but in lab tests it snatched every single cesium ion from a sodium-rich solution designed to mimic the makeup of nuclear leftovers.
When you write for Popular Science, it's easy to become desensitized to wild and crazy future tech. To wit: When I first heard that Darpa wanted to develop cyborg insects to carry surveillance equipment, I thought "ok, cyborg insect spies are pretty cool, but not blowing me away."
Then today, Cornell researchers working on the program unveiled a prototype transmitter for the cyborg bugs that runs on radioactive isotopes. Nuclear powered cyborg insect spies? Ok, now you have my attention.
While the fate of America's Yucca Mountain appears to be sealed, Finnish company Posiva is moving forward with a cutting-edge nuclear waste storage facility that it claims will safely store radioactive waste in drums deep in the ground for 100,000 years. While challenges abound, a green light from the Finnish government expected by 2012 will make the site on Finland's Olkiluoto Island the first permanent nuclear waste repository in the world, opening the door for more to follow.
It's one of those ideas that just sounds wrong: a barge-like floating nuclear plant in the middle of the ocean. But despite its somewhat unconventional approach, a Russian firm we first reported on in 2006 is forging ahead with plans to have the first model ready to begin service in 2012.
While global warming may present a serious problem for most humans, it has been a great boon to the nuclear power industry. Looking to capitalize on the political and public will behind power plants that don't emit greenhouse gases, nuclear engineering company Babcock and Willcox has rolled out a new power plant almost ten times smaller than many of the reactors currently online.
The Big Picture: It's nearly impossible to imagine making meaningful carbon dioxide reductions without designing safer, cleaner reactors and rolling them out immediately — because no one wants to build more of the reactors we have today.
Where We Are Now: 372 GW
What We Need by 2050: 700 GW
Tech to Watch: Next-generation Nuclear