Accelerator route to nuclear energy.There's more than one way to generate nuclear energy. Researchers have already explored various ways of harnessing both nuclear fission fission, in physics: see nuclear energy and nucleus; see also atomic bomb. and nuclear fusion nuclear fusion
Process by which nuclear reactions between light elements form heavier ones, releasing huge amounts of energy. In 1939 Hans Bethe suggested that the energy output of the sun and other stars is a result of fusion reactions among hydrogen nuclei. using atomic nuclei ranging from hydrogen to uranium and plutonium. Now, physicist Carlo Rubbia Carlo Rubbia (born March 31, 1934) is an Italian physicist and Nobel laureate. Biography
Rubbia was born in Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After high school, he studied in the Faculty of Physics at the Scuola Normale in Pisa where he completed a thesis about cosmic ray , director of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics particle physics
or high-energy physics
Study of the fundamental subatomic particles, including both matter (and antimatter) and the carrier particles of the fundamental interactions as described by quantum field theory. (CERN CERN or European Organization for Nuclear Research, nuclear and particle physics research center straddling the French-Swiss border W of Geneva, Switzerland. ) in Geneva Geneva, canton and city, Switzerland
Geneva (jənē`və), Fr. Genève, canton (1990 pop. 373,019), 109 sq mi (282 sq km), SW Switzerland, surrounding the southwest tip of the Lake of Geneva. , Switzerland, has announced an alternative scheme. The technique requires the use of particle accelerators to supply neutrons to drive fission reactions involving thorium-232, an isotope of a plentiful, radioactive metal.
In essence, a high-energy beam of protons shot at a target made up of heavy atomic nuclei knocks out neutrons. Collisions between these neutrons and thorium thorium (thôr`ēəm) [from Thor], radioactive chemical element; symbol Th; at. no. 90; at. wt. 232.0381; m.p. about 1,750°C;; b.p. about 4,790°C;; sp. gr. 11.7 at 20°C;; valence +4. nuclei transform thorium-232 into uranium-233. Hit by additional neutrons, uranium-233 nuclei rapidly split in two, releasing energy and additional neutrons. These neutrons include further production and fission of uranium-233, but at a level insufficient to keep the reaction going on its own. The proton accelerator simultaneously supplies extra neutrons to help sustain the nuclear reaction.
Rubbia concedes that his idea is highly speculative. But he argues that his proposal -- still very much at the theoretical stage and based on sophisticated computer simulations -- would reduce the risk of serious accidents, produce no long-lived radioactive waste, and eliminate unwanted, lethal byproducts such as plutonium. He believes that a working reactor could be developed quickly using existing technology. In one possible design, the thorium fuel itself serves as the target of the proton beam, and water used to cool the device also slows neutrons to increase their interactions with nuclei.
However, critics have questioned Rubbia's claims, and many nuulear experts are skeptical that such reactors would be economically feasible and competitive with other nuclear reactor designs. At the same time, Charles D. Bowman of the Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory has disputed the novelty of Rubbia's scheme. Bowman and his group recently filed a patent on a similar accelerator-based technique, which would be used not only for generating power but also for transmuting radioactive waste into elements safer to handle.
Undaunted, Rubbia plans to continue developing his concept after he retires as CERN director at the end of this year.