Definitions

environmentally safe

Clean And Environmentally Safe Advanced Reactor

Disputed Science:
CAESAR nuclear reactor
Disciplines: Nuclear engineering; Nuclear technology; Nuclear physics
Core Tenets:
Self-sustained fissioning of Uranium 238 can be accomplished via steam moderated neutrons
Year Proposed: 1998
Original Proponents: Dr. Claudio Filippone
Current Proponents: Dr. Claudio Filippone
The Clean And Environmentally Safe Advanced Reactor (CAESAR) is a nuclear reactor concept that uses steam as a moderator. Steam's density can be controlled very finely so, according to its developer Dr. Claudio Filippone, it can be used to fine tune neutron fluxes to ensure that neutrons are moving with an optimal neutron energy profile to split 238U92 nuclei.

The CAESAR reactor design exploits the fact that the fission products and daughter isotopes produced via nuclear reactions also decay to produce additional delayed neutrons. Dr. Filippone claims that unlike conventional water-cooled fission reactors, where fission occurring in enriched 235U fuel rods moderated by liquid water coolant ultimately creates a Maxwellian thermal neutron flux profile, the neutron energy profile from delayed neutrons varies widely. In a conventional reactor, he theorizes, the moderator slows these neutrons down so that they cannot contribute to the 238U reaction; 238U has a comparatively large cross-section for neutrons at high energies.

Dr. Filippone maintains that when steam is used as the moderator, the average neutron speed/energy is increased from that of a liquid water moderated reactor and the delayed neutrons keep going until they hit another nucleus. He claims that the resulting extremely high neutron economy will make it possible to maintain a self-sustaining reaction in fuel rods of pure 238U, once the reactor has been started by enriched fuel.

Skeptics, however point out that it is generally believed that a controlled, sustained chain reaction is not possible with 238U. It can undergo fission when impacted by an energetic neutron with over 1 MeV of kinetic energy. But the number of high-energy neutrons produced by 238U fission are not, themselves, sufficient to induce enough successive fissions in 238U to create a critical system (one in which the number of neutrons created by fission is equal to the number absorbed). Instead, bombarding 238U with neutrons below the 1 MeV fission threshold causes it to absorb them without fissioning (becoming 239U) and decay by beta emission to 239Pu (which is itself fissile).

The CAESAR Project is headed by Dr. Filippone, who is a nuclear scientist and the Director of the Center for Advanced Energy Concepts at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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