Enormous advances in waste reprocessing and reactor safety have made nuclear energy a promising alternative to fossil fuels, one which already provides much of the power for Japan and France.
Amid a rejuvenation of nuclear power, with fresh plant applications and research, a new type of reactor invented in the U.S. may help make an even stronger argument for a nuclear future. The new reactor essentially pairs a fission reactor with a fusion one, using the byproducts of the fusion process (neutrons) to break down spent nuclear fuel. The result is a system that is not forced to rely on high generation from fusion power, which is currently just reaching the break-even point, but which produces less nuclear waste.
The new type of reactor was devised by physicists at The University of Texas at Austin. Swadesh Mahajan, senior research scientist with the Institute for Fusion Studies (IFS) and Department of Physics at the university describes the team's motivation, stating, "Most people cite nuclear waste as the main reason they oppose nuclear fission as a source of power."
Mike Kotschenreuther, another senior researcher describes the new design, stating, "We have created a way to use fusion to relatively inexpensively destroy the waste from nuclear fission. Our waste destruction system, we believe, will allow nuclear power-a low carbon source of energy-to take its place in helping us combat global warming."
Currently, a number of older "light water reactors" (LWRs) reactors operating in the U.S. are incapable of reprocessing, unlike modern reactors. In LWRs, only 75 percent of waste is destroyed, with the most toxic compounds left behind in sludge. The waste from these reactors is costly to dispose of and potentially unsafe. To illustrate the problem, Yucca Mountain, the next major nuclear storage site, which will hold 77,000 tons, is set to open in Nevada in 2020. However, the U.S. will exceed that amount of waste generated by only 2010.
The critical component of the waste destruction system on the new reactor is a high power Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS). This source uses a tokomak magnetic bottle design and is enabled by a key invention by the team called a Super X Divertor. The Super X Divertor is a device which allows the reactor to withstand the heat and particle fluxes of a compact design, allowing efficient production of neutrons to reprocess the waste. Super X Divertors are a relatively proven new technology, being deployed in the MAST tokamak in the United Kingdom, and the DIIID (General Atomics) and NSTX (Princeton University) fusion reactors.
One of the hybrid reactors would be capable of burning the sludge waste of 10 to 15 LWRs, rendering it non-radioactive. The new design would cut 99 percent of the waste produced by reactors, making them less radioactive than coal plants, which also emit some mildly radioactive isotopes.
Professor Mahajan says the new design should be ready for deployment in just a few years, around the time when the first applications for new nuclear plants in the U.S. may go through. He says the reactor marks the best way to fight global warming. He states, "The hybrid we designed should be viewed as a bridge technology. Through the hybrid, we can bring fusion via neutrons to the service of the energy sector today. We can hopefully make a major contribution to the carbon-free mix dictated by the 2050 time scale set by global warming scientists."
The new design is reported in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design.
quote: Getting a license plate tag to "piss people off" is one of the dumbest things I've ever read.
quote: All the Obama/liberal hatred is pretty stupid and immature - if something like this can really dispose of the radioactive waste, there is no reason why Obama's administration would say no.
quote: One of the Greenpeace founders supports nuclear power. I guess I'm not as eager to stereotype all liberals/environmentalists into the anti-nuke group.
quote: One of the Greenpeace founders supports nuclear power. I guess I'm not as eager to stereotype all liberals/environmentalists into the anti-nuke group
quote: One of the hybrid reactors would be capable of burning the sludge waste of 10 to 15 LWRs, rendering it non-radioactive.
quote: The other advantage of a thorium reactor is that it requires a continuous source of neutrons
quote: That is NOT "non-radioactive. In fact, in some cases, because of the relatively short half-life, the fission products can be more dangerous "
quote: Transmutation of long-lived fission wastes, however, makes the final output of the reactor less radioactive than natural coal ash.
quote: Given we dump hundreds of millions of tons of such ash directly into the air each year...
quote: The output from a fission reactor burning daughter products (and need I point out that the final products will have the short half-life discussed above?) will be orders of magnitude more reactive.
quote: Furthermore, the Powder River Basin produces roughly half the nation's coal and last year shipped just about 500,000,000 tons
quote: You can fill in whatever label "liberals" are calling themselves this week, it doesn't change that equation.
quote: Liberals do not lable themselves, the right lables people it disagrees with as liberal.
quote: "To burn this really hard to burn sludge, you really need to hit it with a sledgehammer, and that's what we have invented here," says Kotschenreuther.
quote: What? What the hell "sledgehammer" are they talking about?
quote: The Super X Divertor is designed to handle the enormous heat and particle fluxes peculiar to compact devices; it would enable the CFNS to safely produce large amounts of neutrons without destroying the system.
quote: Perhaps this could be a way to dispose of the enriched uranium sitting around in rotting missiles too
quote: ...the "cannibal" reactor.
quote: Works both ways masher2, ideologes refuse to acknowledge whats infront of them. If its so f#$%^&*g safe, why are you putting it in Yukon mountain?
quote: but you need to change the facts on the ground to have any relevance
quote: I could care less about the color of his skin.
quote: Face it - it is our turn to harp and complain for a change
quote: The byproduct of that can be shipped off to the military for use in armor, weapons, etc...
quote: Why does a discussion about the merits of nuclear fusion and fission power have to descend immediately into a "I hate Obama"/"I love Obama" whine-fest?
quote: He's for nuclear power, as long as it can be gotten rid of safely.
quote: I think he still is adviced not to talk about nuclear energy because it is still seen as political suicide being proactive about nuclear energy although the research states otherwise. In many european countries talking about nuclear energy is still a bit of a no no.
quote: I wouldn't want to live within 250 miles of a nuke plant, I don't care how safe they claim to be.
quote: Let's talk about the reactor design and your thoughts on it
quote: Wind is much more expensive than nuclear?
quote: I have my reservations about your "5x the concrete
quote: If they weren't viable, they wouldn't do it
quote: simple math...
quote: while Coal and Nuclear got $1.31 Billion.
quote: Your anecdotal evidence goes against all real-world evidence to the contrary.
quote: No one spends the type of capital it takes to build these farms in "subprime" areas
quote: Of this amount, 95% (145.5 billion) went to subsidize nuclear power.
quote: Again, this is false.
quote: Amazing how when a poster relates personal experience from a SCADA system that agrees with your position, it then officially debunks my personal experience
quote: And yes, I believe the monthly decommissioning fee on our utility bills is a subsidy: A form of financial assistance paid to a business or economic sector.
quote: if that was threatened, I'm sure there'd be an uprising and pelosi's lifeless body will be dragged down the streets and spat upon.
quote: Hopefully this will change when the options are nuclear plant or unemployment and third world living conditions.
quote: Swadesh Mahajan, senior research scientist with the Institute for Fusion Studies (IFS) and Department of Physics...
quote: what did i misspell?
quote: "H2O is not a gas"
quote: Every day, countless millions of tons of seawater turn to water vapor, only to eventually condense back into rain.
quote: I do not see how you can say that about me. I am trying to point out that criminalizing the denying of global warming is counterproductive, idiotic and destructive.
quote: So far, I have seen nothing to convince me that we have a significant impact on global warming.
quote: Is that a big enough picture for you? If not then consider this: the earth was considerably warmer in the past than it is now, yet bacteria (and polar bears) survived. This is why I suggest that emulating chicken little is unproductive.
quote: Escherichia coli is one of those bacteria strains inside our bodies.
quote: Apples to oranges. We KNOW this. But like the previous poster said, we know little about how planets are supposed to operate and what effect we have on it.