Kurt Terrani wants to accelerate the future of nuclear energy—so he’s turned to its past. Over the last year and a half, Terrani and a team of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee have designed and built the components for a gas-cooled nuclear reactor. It’s a type of reactor that’s almost as old as the nuclear age itself, but Oak Ridge’s newest atom splitter has a distinctive 21st Century twist. When it comes online in 2023, it will be the first nuclear reactor in the world with a 3D-printed core.
“What we’re doing is trying to figure out a faster way to build a nuclear system that has superior performance,” says Terrani, who is the technical director for the Oak Ridge Transformational Challenge Reactor program. “The goal is to fundamentally change the way we do nuclear.”