Fresh ideas for nuclear power
During the last two weeks of July, while most of campus was in the midst of summer, a group of students and professionals met for marathon days of learning, planning and a little bit of dreaming. They were part of the second Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp, which brings students from around the world together with professionals working with advanced nuclear technologies, as well as with others with expertise in policy, markets and financing, business development, and licensing and export control — all contributing ideas to what a future energy economy might look like.
The goal of the Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp — led by nuclear engineering professor Rachel Slaybaugh and run in partnership with five other universities and the DC-based centrist think tank, Third Way — is to bring some of the lessons learned from other industry and technology sectors that have benefited from a more entrepreneurial stance and apply those ideas to the way that advanced nuclear power generating technologies are conceived and deployed.
During the bootcamp’s opening remarks, Slaybaugh encouraged the participants to be bold, creative and holistic in their ideas, “You must obey the laws of physics. You must do your research. You must be careful in your considerations. You must prove your ideas,” she said. “As you move forward in thinking about your design projects, don’t be afraid to grapple directly with the social, economic, and especially, political aspects, of your projects. When you solve a problem, it requires more than just a technical solution.”
During this year’s bootcamp, 50 mentors supported 25 students from 17 universities and nine countries. They divided into six teams to work on real-world issues related to nuclear energy infrastructure and policy.
After last year’s inaugural bootcamp, two companies were spun out of the program and one group wrote a policy paper and now has a consulting contract.
The Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp is sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Nuclear Innovation, Terrestrial Energy and others.