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New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

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  • New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

    The MIT Technology Review had an interesting article on a Traveling-Wave Reactor. The traveling-wave reactor needs only a thin layer of enriched U-235. Most of the core is U-238, millions of pounds of which are stockpiled around the world as leftovers from natural uranium after the U-235 has been scavenged. This reactor would run over 100 years between refuelings. What I think interesting is this came out of a privately funded think-tank, rather than the government labs.

    Wave of the future: Unlike today’s reactors, a traveling-wave reactor requires very little enriched uranium, reducing the risk of weapons proliferation. (Click here for a larger diagram, also on page 3). The reactor uses depleted-uranium fuel packed inside hundreds of hexagonal pillars (shown in black and green). In a “wave” that moves through the core at only a centimeter per year, this fuel is transformed (or bred) into plutonium, which then undergoes fission. The reaction requires a small amount of enriched uranium (not shown) to get started and could run for decades without refueling. The reactor uses liquid sodium as a coolant; core temperatures are extremely hot--about 550 ºC, versus the 330 ºC typical of conventional reactors.
    Credit: Bryan Christie Design Multimedia
    Watch an animation showing the atomic reactions that would take place inside a traveling-wave reactor, and hear John Gilleland describe the processes. A diagram of a traveling-wave reactor.

    Read the full article here:
    Last edited by Curtis; 03-09-2009, 11:04 PM.

  • #2
    Re: New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

    That is pretty amazing. Reducing 2000 tons of spent fuel to 80 tons is a huge step in the right direction. I have always felt that waste is the most dangerous part of nuclear power. Even as waste, it is hot. Lets use the final waste to power cars. A pellet in an indistructible pod and you could go too far for the body. AAH, it would probably cause rust or something. (glowcar)LOL Gee, that sounds like a GM car name!


    • #3
      Re: New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

      Along a similar vein:


      • #4
        Re: New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

        I will put out there, that plutonium and sodium cooled reactors are inherintly not as safe as a water cooled/moderated uranium reactor. Don't want to get into too many details, but there would have to be a considerable increase in safeguards for a reactor of this style, which WOULD add to the costs significantly... That being said, if the extra costs are offset by less waste management/storage costs, then it's a win.

        Also, the statement 'uses spent fuel' is not correct. The U-238 used is not spent fuel, it is basically the Chaff of uranium enrichment. It is relatively stable, and is used in munitions currently (depleted uranium rounds). Basically, they are using the initial enriched uranium here in basic fission, and the neutron's from that are colliding with the stable U-238, turning it into Pu, which then continues to fission, carrying on the line of progression. It will take MANY MANY years of computer simulations and models before the loading requirements are figured out, as well as developing a method of controlling the reactivity of the core, but eventually, it will probably be figured out. It's just a matter of whether something better comes along before they get it (fusion?)
        Last edited by CraziFuzzy; 03-10-2009, 12:13 PM.
        1997 Factory Crown Victoria w/ extended tanks ~~ Clunkerized!
        2000 Bi-Fuel Expedition --> ~~ Sold ~~ <--


        • #5
          Re: New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

          Looks like a different spin on a breeder reactor. The MIT TR article doesn't give much detail. Turn you sound WAY up if you want to hear the video.

          A Wikipedia reference gives credit to Edward Teller for the original idea of a traveling wave reactor.
          '12 Blue Mist Metallic Civic Natural Gas; '03 Galapagos Green Civic GX; '07 Alabaster White Civic GX


          • #6
            Re: New Nuclear Reactor Uses Spent Fuel

            I find the technology fascinating as long as all the waste from this and all other reactors remains in the location that it was created. The Nuclear Industry and the Federal Government have been using my beautiful state of New Mexico as the toilet for the rest of the country since the creation of the Labs in Los Alamos. Check out the Waste Isolation Pilot Program which is NMs version of Yucca Mountain. Most Americans have never heard of it. There have been numerous catastrophic meltdowns in NM Labs which are located in heavily populated areas. Many of these meltdowns were not reported until years after the events happened. I think part of the reason that people do not fear nuclear power plant failures is because the effects of radioactive fallout are not seen until years after the event. There are very high rates of cancer in the Los Alamos area and many of the locals in Santa Fe do not drink the water as a result of it. I personally do not fear the technology, but mans lack of respect for it.