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Not quite a two-seater hybrid electric, but ORNL's new nuclear fuel promises to boost efficiency by as much as 900%.

U.S. Nuclear reactors are not known for their fuel efficiency. At a mere three to four percent burn-up, much of the uranium fuel is wasted and current reactors produce large amounts of unsightly nuclear waste. Advanced gas reactors may offer a better choice for the aging U.S. nuclear power posse.

Working together with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Babcock & Wilcox Company, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), with funding from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Science, has produced a new fuel for the high temperatures of advanced gas reactors. In tests conducted at the Advanced Test Reactor at INL, the fuel reached a nine percent burn-up, a near three-fold efficiency gain from traditional water-cooled nuclear plant fuel and halfway to the targeted 16 to 18 percent.

The fuel, produced in the ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division, is made up of thousands of tiny carbon and silicon carbide coated spheres of uranium, which are compressed into fuel sticks and loaded into a graphite form.

With growing concerns about nuclear reactor waste products, skeptical outlooks for the future of nuclear power and foreign companies selling mini-plants to U.S. customers, a new, more efficient fuel made in America is a ray of hope for U.S. nuclear power advocates. Though it will possibly never be without its own pollution problems, further refinement and research into fission reactors may yield a very efficient and comparatively clean energy generation model.



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By kjboughton on 4/15/2008 2:19:29 PM , Rating: 5
I've spent over six years in nuclear power overseeing the operation of a multitude of different plants. Trust me when I tell you they are no more dangerous than any other heavily industrialized area.

The fact that you show fear for the sirens located near your home just goes to prove my point. I bet there's a fire alarm in every public building you enter but I doubt you get all fearful of the constant threat of a fire whenever you enter one of these places. If you're smart then there's a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, too - am I to believe my life would be in grave danger if I came over for dinner for one evening? Point being, safety systems are intended to provide protection in the case of an accident, not to forshadow any increased sense of threat.

Could it be that the “ominous threat” is just a byproduct of your conditioning? It’s important to understand that nuclear power can be just as safe as any other industry. The first step in all of this is to help people realize that they may have an unfounded bias against this wonderful source of power.


By mindless1 on 4/16/2008 5:20:12 AM , Rating: 1
Apples and oranges. If my neighbor across town has a fire in their kitchen while I'm asleep, it's not likely I'd have any problems as a result the next day. Not only the scope but the controllablilty of a disaster is far better with most types of accident.

I'm not saying the odds are higher, as I don't think they are, but the same basic greed and human error scenarios can effect everything. Odds are it'll never be a problem. Odds catch up to some people eventually.


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