| Disputed Science:|
CAESAR nuclear reactor
|Disciplines:||Nuclear engineering; Nuclear technology; Nuclear physics|
|Self-sustained fissioning of Uranium 238 can be accomplished via steam moderated neutrons|
|Original Proponents:||Dr. Claudio Filippone|
|Current Proponents:||Dr. Claudio Filippone|
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.