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Bureau Seminar, June 14, 2013

Nuclear Energy - Green and Plentiful Fusion-Fission Hybrids

Link to streaming video: available 06.14.2013 at 10:25am

Swadesh M. Mahajan
Research Professor, Ph.D.
Institute for Fusion Studies
The University of Texas at Austin

If the world were forced to shift its energy "burden" from fossils to nuclear, will "nuclear energy" be ready to assume this role? Can one, for example, envision an economically, environmentally and socially acceptable path, and could such a transition be engineered in near future? Can a nuclear energy dominant future be built on the foundations of the current and near term industrial technologies?

"Nuclear energy" must, first, demonstrate safe and acceptable technical solutions to two fundamental problems of fission power:

• The nuclear waste: transuranic isotopes that have long-term radio toxicity and biohazard, and
• The problem of limited "naturally fissile (U235)" fuel supply that must be solved by breeding fuel from fertile materials like U238 and Th232

It will be shown that a Fusion-Fission Hybrid reactor- a creative combination of fusion and fission can indeed lay the foundations of a "green " and plentiful nuclear energy economy on time scales of less than a couple decades. Although nuclear fusion is not ready for direct energy production, recent game changing inventions, and innovations have led to the design of a workable highly compact intense fusion neutron source. In a hybrid driven by such an intense fusion neutron source, several novel fuel cycles that would be inaccessible to pure fission, become available. The resulting vastly enhanced overall nuclear capability can be readily exploited to slay the twin dragon of the "constraining" problems of fission- the problems of nuclear waste and that of limited fuel supply.

Glimpses of the conceptual/scientific new technology along with relevant applications will be given. How the fusion-fission hybrid adds a new, perhaps, crucial dimension to the quest for a vibrant nuclear future will be examined in a global energy perspective.


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