Taylor Wilson, 18, announced at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California on Thursday that he has designed a compact nuclear reactor, which could one day burn waste from old atomic weapons.
“It’s about bringing something old, fission, into the 21st Century,” Wilson said. “I think this has huge potential to change the world.”
According to Ted.com, the website of the TED Conference, Wilson has designed a small nuclear reactor capable of generating 50-100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 100,000 homes.
"The reactor can be made assembly-line style and powered by molten radioactive material from nuclear weapons, "Wilson explained. “You can plop them down anywhere in the world and they work, buried under the ground for security reasons."
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"In the Cold War we built up this huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and we don’t need them anymore. It would be great if we could eat them up, and this reactor loves this stuff.”
Wilson's reactors are designed to spin turbines using gas instead of steam. They operate at temperatures lower than normal nuclear reactors and don’t spew anything harmful if there is a breach.
The fuel is in the form of molten salt, and the reactors don’t need to be pressurized, according to Wilson: “In the event of an accident, you can just drain the core into a tank under the reactor with neutron absorbers and the reaction stops."
“There is no inclination for the fission products to leave this reactor, In an accident, the reactor may be toast, which is sorry for the power company, but there is no problem.”
Wilson, who graduated high school in May, said he is putting off college to focus on a company he created to make his 'Modular Fission Reactors.'
Wilson planned to have a prototype ready in two years and a product to market in five years.
“Not only does it combat climate change, it can bring power to the developing world,” Wilson predicted. “Imagine having a compact reactor in a rocket designed by those planning to habitat other planets. Not only would you have power for propulsion, but power once you get there.”