Leslie Dewan is changing the world of nuclear energy
A World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, CEO of RadiantNano, and one of TIME magazine’s “30 People Under 30 Changing the World,” Dewan is actively working toward new breakthroughs in nuclear power.
Dewan will bring her knowledge to Chautauqua at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater as a part of this week’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme “Infrastructure: Building and Maintaining the Physical, Social and Civic Underpinnings of Society.”
She earned bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and nuclear engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a doctorate degree in nuclear engineering. She is the youngest person to serve on MIT’s board of trustees, and serves on the advisery board of the University of Michigan Engineering School’s Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences program.
Dewan is also the vice-chair of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit think tank “working to enable advanced nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change,” according to its website.
Before starting RadiantNano, Dewan co-founded Transatomic Power in 2011 with Mark Massie. The company aimed to utilize a molten salt reactor, according to its website, which would use a “liquid fuel salt” instead of water to carry heat from the reactor, since water brings the risks of steam or hydrogen explosion.
After setbacks and delays, Transatomic suspended operations in 2018 and went open-source, allowing anyone to make use of its intellectual property.
“This is not a decision we take lightly,” Dewan wrote in a paper on Transatomic’s website. “We’re extremely proud of the great scientific and engineering work we’ve done over the past seven years, and want to make sure that it can continue to further the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors.”
Now, she leads RadiantNano, a “nuclear startup developing next-generation radiation detectors” with uses across national security, medicine and clean energy, according to Dewan’s bio at the NERS website.
In a 2022 TED Talk, Dewan said the company’s detectors could “identify and visualize nuclear material.”
Dewan called secrecy and isolationism the “original sin” of the nuclear industry, a mistake because people are concerned about things, like radiation, that they don’t understand.
“By helping people see radiation, you can help people understand radiation,” Dewan said in her talk. “It’s really turning the lights back on and giving people a sense of ownership of the radiation that’s all around them.”
The technology Dewan’s company creates can be used for monitoring nuclear facilities to make sure they are operating safely, which will allow for the faster development of advanced reactors, as well as scanning cargo for illegal smuggling of nuclear materials, she said in the talk.
“The future is uncertain, but I believe it’s a time of great optimism and opportunity as we work to find sustainable and scalable and resilient ways to power our world,” Dewan said in 2022. “It’s a time where we’re going to need everyone’s ideas, and have a willingness to take calculated risks, so let’s start thinking big again, and choose curiosity and communication to help make the world a better place.”