MIT-trained nuclear scientists are on the fast track to develop a more environmentally friendly nuclear reactor. Transatomic Power has designed a reactor that produces electricity from nuclear waste, reducing the amount of leftover radioactive materials—one of the biggest downsides of conventional nuclear power plants. According to the company’s website, dissolving the nuclear waste into a molten salt, instead of relying on solid fuel, allows its reactor to capture 96% of waste energy and also makes the reactor less prone to meltdowns.

Cofounder and CEO Leslie Dewan ’06, PhD ’13 says Transatomic Power hopes to start building a prototype facility in 2020. “That’s a pretty fast timeline in the nuclear realm, but I think it’s feasible with what we have so far,” she said in a recent interview with Xconomy.

The company has raised $4.5 million in funding since last summer, including $2.5 million from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. This new funding will be used to conduct laboratory tests of different industrial materials and components needed to build its reactor. “I am so thrilled that now there is actual experimental work going on—you can figure out what’s going on with the metals, what’s going on with the ceramics, how will the heat exchangers hold up,” Dewan says. The research is being conducted at MIT.

Dewan and cofounder Mark Massie SM ’10 hit upon their concept while students at MIT. To learn more about their journey from students to entrepreneurs—and the history of nuclear energy—see this interactive feature published by the Brookings Institute.

Watch a TEDxNewEngland talk with Dewan and Massie: The Future of Nuclear Power: Getting Rid of Nuclear Waste

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