Honey, We Shrunk The Nuclear Reactor

[Power Engineering] took a trip to the Westinghouse facility that provides maintenance for nuclear reactors. The research division there has a new microreactor called eVinci and — according to the company — it is a disruptor. Technically, the device is a heat pipe-based passive cooling design that can generate 5 MW of electricity or 13 MW of heat from a 15 MW heater core. You can see a video about the device below.

The company says its initial targets are remote areas like mines that usually depend on diesel generators. Hundreds of passive heat pipes inside a graphite core which contains TRISO (tristructural isotropic) fuel pellets. The heat pipes allow efficient transfer of thermal energy with no pumps.

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Nuclear Reactors Get Small

Steve Martin was ahead of his time when he told us “Let’s get small!” While you usually think of a nuclear reactor as a big affair, there’s a new trend towards making small microreactors to produce power where needed instead of large centralized generation facilities. The U.S. Department of Energy has a video about the topic, you can watch below.

You probably learned in science class how a basic nuclear fission reactor works. Nuclear fuel produces heat from fission while a moderator like water prevents it from melting down both by cooling the reactor and slowing down neutrons. Control rods further slow down the reaction or — if you pull them out — speed it up. Heat creates steam (either directly or indirectly) and the steam turns a conventional electric generator that is no more high tech than it ever has been.

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