The term “nuclear power” includes images of the giant hot towers or Tony Stark’s arc reactor from the iconic “Iron Man.” But two Seattle-based startups make nuclear technology small enough to capture and carry that, thanks in part to purchases from the Department of Defense, which they hope will improve the new generation of spacecraft.
Seattle’s Avalanche Energy and the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation obtained undisclosed amounts from the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit in May to develop two different nuclear power systems.
The Avalanche presses the limits of nuclear integration, while Ultra Safe aims to convert nuclear radioisotope batteries, such as those powered by the Mars rover. Both companies are expected to bring the active spacecraft to the Pentagon by 2027.
“Nuclear is exciting because traditionally, it has been under government control,” he said. Ryan Weed, program manager for the Defense Innovation Unit for nuclear power and energy production. The unit outside the Pentagon in Silicon Valley works exclusively with private companies to adapt to emerging technologies for military use.
After sixty years of architectural science research, nuclear fuel is safe and accepted in the private sector. The climate crisis has also changed public opinion regarding nuclear as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Significant advances in computer modeling have made the commercial development of atomic energy possible, says Chris Hansen, a leading fusion researcher at the University of Washington.
Washington State has a partnership with nuclear research from the site of World War II Hanford, which produced most of the U.S. plutonium. Considering its complex history, Hanford promoted “nuclear technology” in the province, said Scott Montgomery, a Washington University of Jackson’s Jackson School of International Studies.
Today, the state is the catalyst for a nuclear holocaust, especially for companies that try to disperse atomic weapons. Unlike fission, which produces energy by breaking down heavy metals such as uranium, a collision occurs when two tiny atomic nuclei collide to form a large core of a different substance, releasing energy into this process.
Avalanche founder Brian Riordan likes to visualize assembling as an attempt to glue two magnetic ball-coated balls together.