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Nuclear science and engineering

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Reuters

MIT scientists have published a new study questioning the use of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) planned for next-generation U.S. nuclear reactors, writes Timothy Gardner for Reuters. "This material is directly usable for making nuclear weapons without any further enrichment or reprocessing," explains Prof. Scott Kemp, noting while the uranium is enriched to levels of up to 20%, compared with about 5% for most reactor fuel, 10% to 12% would be far safer.

TechCrunch

Conner Galloway SB '08 SM '09 and Alexander Valys SB '08 lead Xcimer Energy Company, a startup seeking to provide economical nuclear fusion power and “pursuing what’s best described as a ground-up redesign of the underlying technology,” writes Tim De Chant for TechCrunch. “This is proven science,” Galloway, the CEO of Xcimer CEO, explains. “It’s just a matter of building a big enough laser, cheap enough laser and efficient enough laser.”

Inside Climate News

MIT spinoff Electrified Thermal Solutions is developing electrically charged bricks that generate and store heat as part of an effort to one day replace fossil fuels, reports Phil McKenna for Inside Climate News. “If you are running an industrial plant where you’re making cement or steel or glass or ceramics or chemicals or even food or beverage products, you burn a lot of fossil fuels,” explains Daniel Stack SM '17, PhD '21, chief executive of Electrified Thermal Solutions. “Our mission is to decarbonize industry with electrified heat.”

NPR

Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno talks with Steve Curwood of Living on Earth about new investments in nuclear power generation, advanced reactors and waste disposal. He notes roughly half the clean energy in the U.S. comes from nuclear, with great potential due to its adaptability. “The nice thing about nuclear is that it’s a fairly versatile energy source,” explains Buongiorno. “It can give you heat, if you want heat. It can give you electricity if you want electricity. It can give you hydrogen if you need hydrogen, or some kind of synthetic fuel for transportation." 

Grist

Senior Lecturer John Parsons speaks with Grist reporter Gautama Mehta about the future of nuclear energy in the United States. “It’s also possible that nuclear, if we can do it, is a valuable contribution to the system, but we need to learn how to do it cheaper than we’ve done so far,” explains Parsons. “I would hate to throw away all the gains that we’ve learned from doing it.”

CNN

Senior Lecturer John Parsons speaks with CNN reporters Angela Dewan, Ella Nilsen and Lou Robinson about the future of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) – nuclear technology that is smaller and less costly to build than traditional, large-scale reactors. “The target here is to produce electricity cheaper than coal and gas plants,” says Parsons. These fossil fuel plants “are terribly simple and cheap to run – they’re just dirty.”

The Wall Street Journal

MIT irradiation facilities engineer Andriy Tuz and Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno speak with Jennifer Hiller of the Wall Street Journal about Tuz’s path from Ukraine to MIT. Tuz joined the Institute “through the U.S. government’s Uniting for Ukraine program, which provides a way for Ukrainian citizens displaced by the war to stay temporarily in the U.S.,” writes Hiller.

ClimateWire

ClimateWire reporter John Fialka writes that MIT engineers have developed a new process to convert carbon dioxide into a powder that can be safely stored for decades. “The MIT process gets closer to an ambitious dream: turning captured CO2 into a feedstock for clean fuel that replaces conventional batteries and stores electricity for months or years,” writes Fialka. “That could fill gaps in the nation's power grids as they transition from fossil fuels to intermittent solar and wind energy.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno speaks with Danny Lewis, host of The Wall Street Journal’s “Future of Everything” podcast, about the future of nuclear power plants. “As countries, regions, businesses contemplate their future plans for reducing carbon emissions, nuclear is one technology that they have got to consider,” says Buongiorno. “It's an incredibly dense energy source, so you don't need a big supply chain that continuously feeds the power plant with fuel, the same way that you would with coal, for example. Also, the machine itself, the reactor is very, very compact.”

NPR

Prof. M. Taylor Fravel speaks with NPR reporter Emily Feng about a new Pentagon report highlighting China’s accelerated efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal. “It’s a complete transformation of China's approach to nuclear weapon,” says Fravel. “[The information found in the report] confirms “the rapid modernization foreshadowed several years ago is on track.”

CBS Boston

Graduate student Kaylee Cunningham speaks with CBS Boston about her work using social media to help educate and inform the public about nuclear energy. Cunningham, who is known as Ms. Nuclear Energy on TikTok, recalls how as a child she was involved in musical theater, a talent she has now combined with her research interests as an engineer. She adds that she also hopes her platform inspires more women to pursue STEM careers. “You don't have to look like the stereotypical engineer,” Cunningham emphasizes.

TechCrunch

Dan Stack PhD ’20 speaks with TechCrunch reporter Tim De Chant about his startup Electrified Thermal Solutions, which is developing electrified firebricks to help decarbonize building materials.  

NBC

Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno speaks with NBC reporter Catherine Clifford about the future of nuclear energy in the United States. “The US may catch up if the new technologies being developed here — small modular reactors and microreactors above all — will prove to be technically and commercially successful, which is currently uncertain,” says Buongiorno.

Fortune

In an article he co-authored for Fortune, postdoctoral associate Matthew Hughes explains how extreme heat affects different kinds of machines. “In general, the electronics contained in devices like cellphones, personal computers and data centers consist of many kinds of materials that all respond differently to temperature changes,” they write. “So as the temperature increases, different kinds of materials deform differently, potentially leading to premature wear and failure." 

Scientific American

Prof. Tracy Slatyer and Prof. Janet Conrad speak with Scientific American reporter Clara Moskowitz about their favorite discoveries in the field of physics. Slatyer notes that “the accelerating expansion of the universe has to be a strong contender.” For Conrad, “I think my favorite event in physics was the prediction of the existence of the neutrino [a subatomic particle with no charge and very little mass] because so much of our fundamental approach to physics today grew out of that moment.”