Teenager lauded for his design for a “safer nuclear reactor.” Add in Sorenson’s thorium and now we’re talking!

I like seeing things like this:

Do nuclear power plants need a redesign? Critics of nuclear energy seem to think so, and so does nuclear energy advocate, Taylor Wilson. A physics wunderkind, Wilson became the youngest person to ever create fusion at age 14. And since graduating from high school last year, he’s devoted himself to finding innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

The now nineteen-year-old Wilson recently spoke to a TED audience about his design for a small, modular fission reactor that is both less expensive and much safer to operate than today’s nuclear reactors.

Wilson’s design is for a “molten salt reactor” or an MSR. MSR’s, unlike our typical water-cooled reactors in use today, use a molten salt for a coolant instead of highly-pressurized water. I am a huge advocate for this kind of technology because it’s inherently safe – meaning that it fails to a safe state as opposed to melting down – and offers efficiencies that water-cooled designs can’t match. The MSR isn’t something new that Wilson came up with in his garage. The US tested the concept back in the 1950’s. That doesn’t diminish Wilson’s achievement, not at all, and I’m glad to see him come up with the design independently. He stops a wee bit short of the full solutions, though, in that he basically doesn’t really address the fuel used in the reactor. He offers up the notion that we could use our stockpiled nuclear weapon material as fuel and he’s right. But there’s a better way, as highlighted in Richard Martin’s book, SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future . Thorium has a number of advantages and I’ve spoken about them before in this blog.

Martin’s source for his information is Kirk Sorenson and this Ted talk lets you hear his findings straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s only 10 minutes and I guarantee you it will light your interest.