Nuclear News on the Newswire

Radiant horizons: Fission surface power on the moon, Mars, and beyond

Lindsay Kaldon

Imagine what our world would be like today without the benefits of electric energy. Think of the inventions and technologies that never would have been. Think of a world without power grids and the electricity that makes them run. Without this power, we’d find it difficult to maintain our industrial and manufacturing bases or enable advancements in the fields of medicine, communications, and computing.

Now consider the moon, our closest celestial neighbor about which we still know so little, waiting for modern-day explorers in spacesuits to unveil its secrets. Lunar exploration and a future lunar economy require reliable, long-lasting, clean sources of power. Nuclear fission answers that call. When assessing the application of nuclear power in space, three Ps should be considered: the present, the potential, and the partnerships.

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PPPL’s new tabletop stellarator uses off-the-shelf magnets

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are using a stellarator they designed and built using permanent rare-earth magnets and a 3D-printed shell to help test new fusion power concepts. MUSE—the first stellarator built at PPPL in 50 years—took one year to construct and generated its first plasma in February 2023. The work that went into its design has already inspired a stellarator power plant concept being developed by a commercial spin-off, Thea Energy.

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Oklo looks to bring microreactor “powerhouse” units on line

Next-generation reactor company Oklo Inc. is teaming up with Diamondback Energy Inc. to bring Oklo’s Aurora Powerhouse units to the American Southwest.

The companies signed a nonbinding letter of intent (LOI) this week to collaborate on a 20-year power purchase agreement that would provide 50 MW of electricity per unit to Diamondback’s Permian Basin operations area. The agreement lays out options to renew and extend the agreement for an additional 20-year term, since the units are designed to operate for 40 years without needing to refuel. Diamondback is an independent oil and gas company headquartered in Texas.

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Fourth APR-1400 begins commercial operation in South Korea

Unit 2 of South Korea’s Shin-Hanul nuclear power plant entered commercial operation on April 5, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power announced. It is the nation’s 26th operating reactor, which continues the upward nuclear trend as South Korea reverses a previous phase-out plan for nuclear.

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Proving DRACO will deliver

The United States is now closer than it has been in over five decades to launching the first nuclear thermal rocket into space, thanks to DRACO—the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Orbit.

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