A safer nuclear future

Dr. Leslie Dewan speaks during the KAUST 2018 Winter Enrichment Program (WEP). File photo.

​- By Andrea Hulsbosch, KAUST News

Dr. Leslie Dewan is a young scientist who wants to save the world using new, innovative nuclear technology. She spoke about what she sees as the next generation of sustainable nuclear power plants during her recent Winter Enrichment Program lecture.

To answer humanity's energy needs, nuclear energy can provide a base load of electric power, which is continuously present at the bottom of the demand curve.

"I like the question about nuclear energy versus renewable energy. We need to do both. We need to have a broad and diverse energy portfolio if we want the grid to be really robust," said Dewan.

Dr. Dewan, who is co-founder and CEO of Transatomic, graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering. She was named a TIME Magazine "30 People Under 30 Changing the World;" an MIT Technology Review "Innovator Under 35;" and a Forbes "30 Under 30" in Energy.

Dr. Leslie Dewan (center) receives a special gift from the KAUST Enrichment Programs team after her lecture. File photo.

The central question of her work is whether a cleaner, safer, and more affordable nuclear reactor can replace conventional systems. With her research Dewan shows how the design of a new reactor pushes the boundaries of nuclear technology.

The revolutionary distinction between old power plants and this new version is in the use of a better fuel form, a safer reactor design and the reduction of nuclear waste by fifty percent.

Dewan believes there's a big market for cleaner, safer reactors in rapidly developing countries like Saudi Arabia. "Our new design is ideal for countries that see a rising need in electric power demand," she explained.

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