CORVALLIS - Say the phrase "nuclear energy" and for some it stirs up images of disasters like Fukushima or Three Mile Island.
But what if someone invented a nuclear reactor that can't melt down? That's exactly what engineers at Oregon State University believe they've done.
They will be testing a new nuclear energy technology that will be safer and more efficient than the traditional nuclear power. It will also generate 30-50 percent more electricity with up to half the radioactive waste.
And it would do all this without producing any greenhouse gases.
Researchers say what really sets the reactor apart, is how safe it is.
Unlike most nuclear reactors, OSU engineers say their reactor consistently operates at super-hot temperatures so it would be nearly impossible to melt down.
“You can’t get the thing hot enough to melt the core down so ... you’re really limiting the potential for these types of traumatic accidents that we’ve seen in the past with nuclear power,” said Brian Woods, an associate professor of nuclear engineering and director of the project.
Researchers say not only can this new nuclear technology produce electricity, it could one day produce hydrogen to power cars and steam to heat buildings.
Engineers will start testing the technology this summer. They hope to market it in the next 20 to 30 years.