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By Russ Wilcox
Transatomic Power (TAP) is bringing the world an atomic reactor that operates safely, cleans up waste, and pays off fast.
Short description of your technology
We dissolve uranium into molten salt forming a liquid fuel that runs cooler and safer. A test reactor already demonstrated the basic principle in the 1960s. We have a 20X improvement. Our novel reactor core has a highly efficient neutron economy that lets us burn spent nuclear waste. A typical nuclear plant produces 20 metric tons of high-level waste annually, we produce 4kg. TAP reactors are small enough for factory line production, modular shipment, and fast construction. This cuts cost substantially. Our first product is a rail-shippable reactor with 500MWe output for replacing coal plants.
What is the key element of your technology that differentiates it from existing solutions
The Transatomic Power reactor offers breakthroughs in safety, waste, and cost. * SAFETY: In a traditional reactor, solid ceramic uranium rods must be cooled with large amounts of water. The centerline of the rods can reach 2000°C while water boils at 100°C. This materials mismatch creates a design headache, which is solved today to statistical levels by complexity, by redundancy, and by expense. We have a new materials approach where the uranium dissolves into a salt liquid. This lets us run at a cooler 700°C, far below the boiling point of salt. That provides default safety with wide tolerances. Should a problem occur, because the fuel is liquid, it can now be drained out of the reactor by gravity, for a graceful and fully automatic self-shutdown. * WASTE: In a traditional reactor, the solid ceramic uranium rods must be replaced every four years as byproducts slow down and then stop fission. In our reactor these byproducts are removed or converted, allowing the same fuel to stay in the reactor far longer. Over time we deliver up to 30 times more energy and with near-elimination of high-level waste. We can even start with the spent fuel from other reactors and use it directly as an energy source instead of putting it under Yucca Mountain. * COST: Our reactor is compact and the facility size is smaller than traditional nuclear plants, enabling modular factory production, rapid economies of scale, and the opportunity to build in the USA and export abroad. TAP’s inherent safety, solution to waste, and low cost are a win for nuclear and the world.
Russ Wilcox was previously CEO of E Ink Corporation, a company he co-founded in 1997 to commercialize electronic paper materials invented at the MIT Media Lab. E Ink conducted ground-breaking research, scaled up manufacturing in the United States, and shipped tens of millions of displays for the Amazon Kindle, SONY Reader, B&N Nook and other devices. This transformed the publishing industry and led to the sale of the company for $450 million in 2009. Russ graduated with honors from Harvard College and was a Baker Scholar at the Harvard Business School and is a co-inventor of twenty-five issued U.S. patents. He is an Ernst & Young New England Entrepreneur of the Year and a Mass High Tech All-Star.
Leslie Dewan graduated from MIT in 2007 with S.B. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering. After undergrad, she worked for a robotics company in Cambridge, MA, where she designed search-and-rescue robots and equipment for in-field identification of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, where she works on computational modeling of nuclear materials. Leslie is a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellow and an MIT Presidential Fellow.
Mark Massie has an S.M. degree in nuclear science and engineering from MIT, and an S.B. degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. He has worked at TerraPower in Bellevue, WA, where he developed and implemented a method for calculating high-fidelity fuel compositions in travelling wave reactors. He has also worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he developed code for analyzing sodium fast reactors. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, specializing in nuclear reactor core design. Mark is a Department of Energy Nuclear Engineering University Program Fellow and a Department of Energy Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative Fellow.
Dr. Michael Short received a Masters in Materials Science and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from MIT in 2010. He is skilled in modeling, simulation, and experimentation on multiple length scales. Most recently, Mike developed a new type of steel to resist corrosion in liquid lead-bismuth up to 715C. He then used this alloy in a functionally graded composite material, designed to remove corrosion as an impediment to lead-bismuth cooled nuclear reactors without compromising structural integrity. Mike currently works on modeling and experimenting with corrosion deposits, known as CRUD, that plate out on the fuel rods of light water reactors. Mike brings a decade of experience in experimental design and advanced characterization techniques to Transatomic Power, from the nanoscale to the level of commercial fabrication and processing.
Prior to launching her own consulting practice, Wendolyn Holland served as Director of Strategic Development and Technical Partnerships at Savannah River National Laboratory. She was appointed to her first role for the U.S. Department of Energy in June 2008 as Senior Advisor for Commercialization in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The position fostered National Lab stewardship, created taxpayer value out of the continued investment in the National Labs, and was designed to carry these ideals from the Bush Administration into the Obama Administration. In this role, she served as Program Manager for the Technology Commercialization Fund, the Entrepreneur in Residence Program, the Innovation Ecosystem Development Initiative, and the Innovation Portal. Holland's leadership positions under the auspices of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit Program. Holland received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 2001 and her BA from Yale in 1991. She is a frequent lecturer on U.S. energy policy.