Nuclear Energy Without Nuclear Waste

Creating powerful, clean, and safe energy sources for our future

By 2050, scientists estimate that fossil fuels, our current energy source, will be significantly depleted. Therefore, scientists have been searching for an energy source to solve the imminent energy crisis. Perhaps one of the most promising solutions is nuclear fusion that can produce large amounts of energy with little to no radioactivity. Dr. Gerald Kulcinski, of the University of Wisconsin, hopes to use nuclear fusion to provide nuclear energy without nuclear waste and thereby provide a stable and more efficient source of electrical energy for the 21st century. Dr. Kulcinski's research will support long-lasting sources of clean energy that emit no greenhouse gases and little or no release of radioactive isotopes in the event of an accident. In addition, because he has targeted fusion from helium-3 fuels, Dr. Kulcinski's energy source promises to have no proliferation risk, meaning that unlike other nuclear energy sources being developed, bomb grade materials will not be able to be produced. In addition to his work with reliable energy sources, Dr. Kulcinski uses his expertise in nuclear fission and fusion to design near term technologies for various types of detection ranging from explosives to cancers.

Dr. Kulcinski's lab is the only known lab in the US, and possibly the world, that studies fusion energy from helium-3 fuels that releases little or no by-product neutrons. By studying low neutron and neutron-less fusion fuels, Dr. Kulcinski is able to produce nuclear energy with no proliferation risk. In addition, he and his team have a well equipped laboratory with a 300kV, 200mA power supply that allows them to study fusion plasmas in the aneutronic fusion regimes. In addition to the robust research produced by Dr. Kulcinski and his team, they are part of a larger  fusion program at the University of Wisconsin responsible for producing the greatest number of Ph.D.'s in plasma physics and fusion technology in the United States with over 425 graduates having already earned their degrees. Therefore the combination of Dr. Kulcinski's impressive scientific research and mentorship have created the foundations for a project that is likely to affect generations to come. While fossil fuels may be the major source of energy in the World for the next thirty years or so, Dr. Kulcinski's work looks farther into the future and aims to ensure that future generations have a stable, safe, and environmentally friendly source of energy!

Current research includes:

  • Detecting Explosives by using first generation fusion fuels (D, T): Dr. Kulcinski is using his background in nuclear fission and fusion to create methods to detect clandestine materials such as IED's, conventional explosives, smuggled nuclear weapons, and the production of cancer detecting radioisotopes. He and his team have already demonstrated the ability to detect C-4 explosives and highly enriched U-235 thereby allowing for the further development of technologies that will ensure security. In addition, they have produced several PET isotopes allowing for the potential detection of cancers. In addition to the near term applications of fusion they have a long term overarching goal of developing clean, safe, and economical source of energy to raise the standard of living for the 10 billion people that will inhabit the Earth in 2050 and beyond.

Bio

Gerald L. Kulcinski is currently the Grainger Professor of Nuclear Engineering-Emeritus and the Director of the Fusion Technology Institute. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1993 and was awarded the NASA Public Service Medal in 1993 and the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2010. He served on the NASA Advisory Council from 2005 to 2009 and in 2008 he was appointed to the Advisory Committee for the Department of Commerce on Emerging Technology and Research. He has been a Fellow in the American Nuclear Society since 1978.

Dr. Kulcinski conducted and directed research on the effects of radiation in metals while serving as a senior research scientist at the Battelle Northwest Laboratories from 1965 to 1971 and worked on the Nuclear Rocket Program at Los Alamos in 1963. From 1965 to 1971 he was a Lecturer at the Center for Graduate Study in Richland, Washington. Dr. Kulcinski joined the Nuclear Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He was a visiting scientist at the Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center in West Germany in 1977 and was on sabbatical leave at the Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco in 1989 and 1995. Dr. Kulcinski's lifetime goal is, "to insure that society has a long-lasting, clean, safe, and economical source of energy to raise the standard of living for the 10 billion people that will inhabit the Earth in 2050 and beyond."

Website: https://directory.engr.wisc.edu/ep/faculty/kulcinski_gerald

Awards

NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal, 2010

University of Wisconsin Hilldale Award-Physical Sciences, 2009

Big 10 Centennial Award-Wisconsin, 1995

NASA Public Service Award, 1993

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering, 1993