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It’s strange to me that many of the people who fight to increase gun proliferation after every single mass shooting that occurs are the same ones who want nothing to do with nuclear energy due to the relatively minuscule number of accidents that nuclear power plants have incurred. This despite the fact that it is in fact safer, cheaper, and more reliable than any other source of energy that we currently have. At least, on a large scale. People hear nuclear and think “bomb” instead of “the future.” Well, not Reno, Nevada resident Taylor Wilson, who aims to reinvent how America looks at nuclear reactors. For a bit of background, Wilson become the youngest person ever to create nuclear fusion, which he did in his basement at age 14.
Wilson recently gave an informational TED Talk about his ideas for a smaller, assembly-line redesign of reactors. Instead of using high-pressure water boiling to produce the steam to run a reactor’s turbines, Wilson designed a compact molten salt reactor which would both increase efficiency and power, with nearly no downside, and it drastically updates the ways that people can view fission.
A traditional turbine runs at temperatures of 200 to 300 degrees Celsius and at 30-35 percent efficiency, while Wilson’s concept would bring the heat up to 600-700 degrees Celsius, ramping the efficiency level up to 45-50 percent. Wilson’s reactor would generate between 50 and 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 to 100,000 homes, depending on how many of them have teenagers inside of them. And it’s not as if you’d even have to worry about seeing these devices dot the landscapes, because they’d be installed underground, where they could go up to 30 years without personal maintenance. It also makes accidents and proliferation much less of a threat than is the case with modern reactors.
The only catch is, we have to invent some kind of super material in order to get it to work. Kidding! It runs off of “down-blended weapons pits,” or all the useful uranium and plutonium that nobody has used since we were afraid the Cold War would be our end of days.
“So I really think that in the, say, 20 years it’s going to take us to get fusion and make fusion a reality, this could be the source of energy that provides carbon-free electricity,” says Wilson. And when it comes to using his concept for creating rocket power, he is optimistic.
“There’s something really poetic about using nuclear power to propel us to the stars,” Wilson said. “Because the stars are giant fusion reactors. They’re giant nuclear cauldrons in the sky…there’s something poetic about perfecting nuclear fission and using it as a future source of innovative energy.” Well said. Well thought out. Well done, Mr. Wilson. Check out his TED Talk video below, and try not to think about the last thing you put underground.