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4 minutes reading time (836 words)

Nuclear Power to the Rescue!

My High School Physics Teacher

When I was in high school (four decades ago!) I had an awesome physics teacher in my junior year, Mr. Kindred. His class was a key influence in my decision to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.

I recall Mr. Kindred discussing the future of fusion power and commenting, as was common at that time, that "fusion power is 20 years away". Well, here we are 40 years later and generating power using fusion is still not ready for prime time. But it does appear we are getting closer! 

Since before I was born, nuclear fission has been used to generate power. For many years the USA has met about 20% of its electricity demand using nuclear power plants. Some countries like France generate about 80% of their electricity using nuclear power. Countries like China with rapidly developing economies are building numerous nuclear power plants. For those interested, at the end of this article are some links showing where AFT software has been used in the nuclear power (fission and fusion) industries.

When I was studying engineering at the university (early 1980's), nuclear power using fission was considered bad for the environment. The better environmental option (the thinking went at the time) was anything but nuclear. Which usually meant coal. With the growth in concern in greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, it is interesting how many now view nuclear fission as a "clean energy source". E.g., see U.S. Department of Energy 3 Reasons Why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable and this popular article Is Nuclear Energy Renewable? The Future of Nuclear Energy.

A few years later when I was a young engineer living in San Diego, California, I was able to attend the excellent local ASME chapter meetings and tours. This was in the late 1980's. On one of those tours, I was fortunate to visit the tokamak nuclear fusion facility at General Atomics.

When I was a slightly older but still young engineer (early 1990's), I took a position with Babcock & Wilcox (now BWXT) where part of my job involved system analysis of next-generation steam/water equipment for nuclear submarines.

And then I started AFT in 1993 where we have had a steady involvement in many aspects of the nuclear industry over the last 27+ years. Our software has been used by many engineers in many countries on the ITER nuclear fusion project (see examples listed below). There was an interesting article just this week on new magnet technology by Commonwealth Fusion Systems to be used at ITER.

Some knowledgeable experts raise serious concerns about humankind being able to sustain ourselves with anything but nuclear power (see this excellent article which is worth a full read Lessons from technology development for energy and sustainability – see, in particular, Table 1). In the short term (next 10-20 years) the world may need to decide to build more nuclear fission power plants to better manage humankind's carbon emissions. In the longer term (20-30 years) perhaps my high school teacher Mr. Kindred will finally be proven right about fusion. And the world can have unlimited "safe and clean" power. If so, I hope AFT software will continue being used by nuclear fusion system engineers!

AFT Software Use in Nuclear Fission and Fusion Industries

Nuclear Fusion

Case Study

AFT In the News

Nuclear Fission

Case Studies

Technical Paper

AFT In the News

Academic Study

Nuclear Waste

Case Study

Technical Paper

Nuclear Verification & Validation of AFT Software Products

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Wednesday, 23 June 2021

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