Energy News and Updates

General Atomics Energy News and Updates

As a major energy research and development firm, General Atomics’ energy businesses are often the subject of media coverage. We also engage in a variety of outreach efforts to the scientific and academic communities to educate the public on the future of energy. Media professionals seeking more information on these activities should contact GA Director of Business Development Zabrina Johal.

 

  • General Atomics Joins the Nuclear Energy Institute in Support of a Department of Defense Micro-Reactor Program

    GA's micro-reactor will build on decades of work on small reactors and advanced materials

    General Atomics (GA) expresses its support for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) report, “Roadmap for the Deployment of Micro-Reactors for U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Domestic Installations,” released earlier today. The report lays out a clear path toward deploying small (<10 MWe) nuclear reactors at DoD installations in potentially as little as five years.

  • Dr. Christina Back Testifies in Support of Advanced Nuclear Energy

    Dr. Christina Back, General Atomics’ vice president for Nuclear Technologies and Materials, testified Sept. 13 before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the benefits of advanced nuclear technology, specifically accident tolerant fuel (ATF) for commercial nuclear reactors. Back discussed the need to efficiently review and license ATF concepts, such as the one GA is developing with Westinghouse that uses an innovative silicon-carbide cladding to help make reactors even safer and more economically competitive.

    The testimony can be viewed here.

    Dr. Christina Back Testifies in Support of Advanced Nuclear Energy
    Dr. Christina Back, right, shows an innovative silicon-carbide cladding for Accident Tolerant Fuel to members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during her recent testimony.
  • Steady as she goes: Scientists tame damaging plasma instabilities and pave the way for efficient fusion on Earth

    Before scientists can capture and recreate the fusion process that powers the sun and stars to produce virtually limitless energy on Earth, they must first learn to control the hot plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions. In a set of recent experiments at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, operated by General Atomics for the DOE, scientists have tamed a plasma instability in a way that could lead to the efficient and steady state operation of ITER, the international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power.

  • DOE: Launching Jets from Aircraft Carriers with Fusion Technology

    How technologies developed for fusion have taken on second lives in industry.

    A recent U.S. Department of Energy feature story on spinoffs from fusion energy research highlighted General Atomics’ development of aircraft carrier catapult technology. An excerpt from the article appears below.

    While smartphone components are some of our smallest technologies, fusion research has also set the stage for improving some of the world's biggest ones: aircraft carriers.

    In the 1990s, the Department of Defense (DOD) realized that they could do better than the steam and hydraulic-powered catapults on aircraft carriers in use at the time. So they released a request for proposals for a technology that could store a huge amount of energy and release it almost instantaneously — over and over again.

    Researchers at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, an Office of Science user facility run by General Atomics (GA), were familiar with those challenges. In fact, they had to solve a similar problem back in 1978 before they could get a new iteration of their reactor up and running.

    "GA is in a unique position to drive technology innovations, given its long history of using scientific research results to develop cross-cutting practical applications," said John Rawls, chief scientist at GA.

    To control the 100-million-degree plasma inside of it, the DIII-D reactor produces huge magnetic fields. The machine creates and maintains these fields by running tremendous amounts of energy through giant magnets. When GA scientists designed the machine with funding from the Office of Science's predecessor in the 1970s, they developed the controls and inverters to release and control those bursts of energy.

    Based on that expertise and existing technology, DOD chose GA to develop the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). This system speeds an aircraft down the deck of a carrier using a linear induction motor coupled to the same type of inverters that provided such precise electrical and magnetic control at DIII-D. The performance of the induction motor can be finely controlled to deliver the precise amount of acceleration and velocity necessary to launch an aircraft of a specific size and weight. Because it's much more precise than previous systems, EMALS minimizes the physical stress put on the aircraft, increasing their lifespans, and reducing costs.

    Today, the U.S. Navy is using EMALS on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). It is also installing EMALS on all future Ford-class aircraft carriers.

    "We were able to advance numerous first-of-kind technologies, including the creation of the world's most powerful linear motor and new inverter drives, to produce an integrated EMALS system that has a smaller footprint, greater efficiency, and requires less manning and maintenance to help save costs and improve reliability," said Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems. "To top it off, we offer a flexible design that has the potential for installation on other platforms requiring different catapult configurations and aircraft support."

  • Portable Nuclear Power Reactor Program Advances at GA

    Naysayers are nothing new for General Atomics. While others say nuclear power is on the decline, the privately held company is betting on a vision of small reactors cooled by helium gas. It’s a long-term vision since GA’s reactor design is not ready for commercial use. In fact, a basic component of the reactor — uranium fuel rods made from a novel ceramic material rather than conventional materials — needs to be proven in the lab and cleared by federal regulators. That process will take several years.

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