US nuclear technology companies Phoenix (focused on near-term fusion applications) and SHINE Medical Technologies (focused on medical isotope production) have achieved a new world record for a nuclear fusion reaction in a steady-state system.
The reaction yielded 46 trillion (4.6x1013) neutrons per second, eclipsing the previous record by nearly 25% and setting a new standard for neutron generator technology that is expected to enable further advances in medicine, manufacturing and clean energy.
The achievement, announced this week, took place in late July during a demonstration of Phoenix’s third-generation gas-target neutron generator. It formed part of the companies’ ongoing preparation for full-scale operation of the medical isotope production facility being built by SHINE.
The previous steady-state fusion record was held by the Rotating Target Neutron Source II facility in Livermore, California, which operated from 1978 to 1987. It produced a maximum output of 37 trillion (3.7x1013) neutrons per second.
The fusion reaction followed a demonstration in June of the neutron generator, during which Phoenix and SHINE ran a 132-hour or 5.5-day test with more than 99% uptime. These tests validated the performance and reliability of the Phoenix neutron generator technology which will drive SHINE’s production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and other isotopes. SHINE expects isotope production to begin in 2021.
Since 2005, the two companies have operated under the mission established by SHINE CEO and founder Dr Greg Piefer, and the founder and former CEO of Phoenix, to use fusion technology to solve near-term problems caused by limited accessibility to nuclear reactors for applications such as medical isotope production, non-destructive testing and materials research.
“The world-record proves the accelerator technology is suitable to produce medical isotopes at the scale required to support a robust business case,” Piefer said. “It is also a steppingstone toward advancing fusion for other, more ambitious applications, including the recycling of nuclear waste and ultimately the creation of cleaner, safer and more abundant energy.”
SHINE’s facility will integrate eight Phoenix systems to drive SHINE’s Mo-99 production, while disposing of weapons-grade uranium by using uranium made safe by the federal government as a consumable.
Once operations begin, SHINE will be capable of producing enough isotopes to satisfy one-third of worldwide demand.
Photo: In July, Phoenix and SHINE Medical Technologies achieved a new world record yielding 46 trillion neutrons per second from nuclear fusion reaction in a steady-state system (Credit: SHINE)