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Nuclear Innovation for the 21st Century - Prof. Richard K. Lester

Nuclear energy will be essential for achieving deep, rapid reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. Today it produces almost two-thirds of all low-carbon electricity in the U.S. Nuclear power technology is highly reliable, easily scalable, and orders of magnitude more compact than other energy sources.

But new nuclear plants are costly, risky investments and cannot compete with gas-fired electricity at today’s low natural gas prices. Many of America’s 100 commercial nuclear power plants are likely to shut down over the next two decades, and there are no plans to replace them.

In this talk, Professor Lester will discuss the role of innovation in making an energy source - already much safer than it was 40 years ago - less expensive, more secure and safer still, while developing new approaches that are designed to meet the rapidly evolving capabilities and limitations of electric power grids.

What new developments seem most promising today? Can innovations in nuclear power and fuel cycle technologies, as well as in nuclear governance and education, unlock the potential of nuclear power to help drive the global transition to an affordable, reliable, low-carbon energy system?

Professor Lester will describe some of the advanced technologies under development at MIT. Examples will include hybrid nuclear-renewables systems, nuclear air-Brayton combined cycle systems, new reactor siting strategies and off-grid applications. Finally, he will describe the choice facing the US - become a 21st century nuclear also-ran, or lead the development of a new generation of nuclear technologies? He will outline a new approach to large-scale nuclear innovation, designed to tap into America’s formidable industrial capabilities and entrepreneurial strengths.

Richard Lester is Head of MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), and also faculty chair of the Industrial Performance Center. His research focuses on local, national, and international systems of innovation. He is also active in research and teaching on nuclear technology innovation, management and control. As head of NSE he works with his faculty colleagues to help develop the next generation of leaders of the global nuclear enterprise and to provide technical leadership in energy and non-energy applications of nuclear science and technology. As the founding director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center, he has led several major studies of national and regional competitiveness and innovation performance commissioned by governments and industrial groups around the world.

Professor Lester’s latest book is Unlocking Energy Innovation: How America can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System. He is the author or co-author of seven other books on energy, innovation and productivity.

He obtained his undergraduate degree in ChemE from Imperial College and a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT and he has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1979. He serves on several boards and as an advisor to corporations, governments, and non-profit groups, and speaks frequently to academic, business and general audiences throughout the world.

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Energy and Clean Tech Series

Energy and Clean Tech Series

Category: Environment/Energy | Updated over 2 years ago

November 08, 2014 14:36
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