As a powerful and potentially clean source of energy, nuclear power could offer a solution to the Earth’s dwindling supply of oil and fossil fuels.
But in a world that recalls the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, nuclear energy is seen by many as a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Enter a team of OSU nuclear engineers led by Josè Reyes, interim director of the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering.
By eliminating pipes, pumps, and moving parts, the engineers have created a new reactor design that is simpler, less costly to build, and based on passively safe concepts that take advantage of natural forces such as gravity, natural circulation, convection, and evaporation.
In short, the new reactor has fewer parts that can fail than previous generations of nuclear plants. “Because our design is so simple, the reactor is much safer,” says Reyes.
The team’s innovative approach enables the reactor to fit on a single railcar, run for five years between refueling shutdowns, and be installed for a fraction of the cost of a traditional nuclear plant.
The team is considering the patent potential of the design and has completed testing the first prototype for the U.S. Department of Energy. The promise for the system is so great that many other countries, including Argentina and South Korea, are considering similar designs.
In addition to Reyes, the project team includes OSU professors Brian Woods, Qiao Wu, and Todd Palmer, as well as partners at the Idaho National Engineering Lab and Nexant/Bechtel.
Reyes is a key innovator on the team and at OSU. In the past 10 years, he has leveraged an initial $4,000 grant into more than $13 million in research funding–part of the reason the graduate program in nuclear engineering is currently ranked ninth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
And, as one of the nation’s leading Hispanic engineers, Reyes was named “Role Model of the Week” in early March by HENAAC, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting careers for Hispanics in engineering, science, technology, and mathematics.