Can a Nuclear Battery Explode?

Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas that is much lighter than air, so it will usually rise and disperse quickly if there is minimal ventilation from the top of the battery case and the compartment it is located in. However, if a gas pocket forms, any spark - such as from a brushed electric motor - can ignite the hydrogen and cause a powerful explosion. This is what happened at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plants. Additionally, internal short circuits can create a spark inside the batteries that can cause an explosion of hydrogen and open the case.

This can occur with both sealed and wet cell batteries. Lithium batteries are designed to deliver high performance with minimal weight. The components of these batteries are made to be lightweight, resulting in thin partitions between cells and a thin outer shell. These partitions or cladding are quite fragile, so they can be easily drilled. If the battery is damaged, a short circuit occurs which can ignite the highly reactive lithium. The diamond nuclear battery is based on the fact that when an artificial diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current.

This makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, does not emit emissions and requires no maintenance. Transporting spent nuclear fuel comes with its own set of myths. For example, physicists and chemists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of seemingly useless nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for longer than human civilization has existed. If it were simply a matter of permanently disposing of radioactive material, there are many options, but spent nuclear fuel and other wastes consist of valuable radioactive isotopes that are needed in industry and medicine, or that can be reprocessed to produce more fuel. To comply with DOE or Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) transportation requirements, the SNF must be placed in a robust transport container (also known as a transport barrel) that is designed to protect against all possible releases of radioactive material. Kim and Kwon's nuclear battery consists of a titanium dioxide electrode coated with platinum, water and a piece of radioactive strontium-90. This nuclear battery could power your smartphone forever - as long as you don't value your life or your sperm count too much - according to ExtremeTech. Like nuclear reactors, they generate electricity from nuclear energy but differ in that they don't use a chain reaction.

Electricity is generally produced with nuclear energy by heating steam to rotate turbines that generate electricity. Your next smartphone or electric vehicle could run on a nuclear battery instead of your usual lithium-ion cell, thanks to a breakthrough made by researchers at the University of Missouri. For now, nuclear batteries are likely to be used only in military and space applications where extreme longevity outweighs any risks. Materials that directly convert radiation into electricity could produce a new era of spacecraft and even Earth-based vehicles powered by high-power nuclear batteries, say US researchers. An atomic battery, nuclear battery, radioisotope battery or radioisotope generator is a device that uses the energy of the decay of a radioactive isotope to generate electricity. Fusion weapons are also known as thermonuclear bombs or more commonly hydrogen bombs. They are generally defined as nuclear weapons in which at least some energy is released by nuclear fusion.

An unexpected example of this is the work of the Bristol team on a major source of nuclear waste from aging British Magnox reactors which are now being dismantled after more than half a century of service. Ultimately, even if beta radiation can be contained quite easily, it's unlikely we'll ever see commercial nuclear batteries.