Taylor Wilson, the teenager who built a working nuclear fusion reactor, started thinking about fission—he is a teenage boy after all. "Is fission played out?" he wondered. "Or is there something left to innovate here?"
It turns out there is a lot to innovate there, and today at TED Wilson showed off a design for a small, modular nuclear fission reactor that could be built on a factory assembly line and installed anywhere in the world. Granted, it's little more than a diagram at this stage—but he's graduating high school in May.
These power plants are not only smaller and more efficient than existing reactors, but could use cold war-era decommissioned, down-blended nuclear weaponry as source material.
The reactors are intended to be 50-100 MW, which would power somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 homes. They would be between 10% and 15% more efficient than existing nuke plants, in part because they don't use water. The heat exchange takes place in a molten salt core that is buried underground (which also makes it more secure).
Wilson thinks these are safe enough to install in a developing nation without easy access to power, and secure enough that no one would be able to access the dangerous material from within.
The reactor could also be put onto a spacecraft and provide power on another planet.
Are these merely the over-excited dreams of a high school senior? We may find out sooner than later: Wilson says that after graduation he intends to start a company and start building one of these reactors.