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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 masher2 (blog) on 4/15/2008 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 3
Chernobyl was a design the US (and the rest of the world, except for the Soviets) rejected as being far too dangerous all the way back in the 1950s. The US's equivalent accident was TMI -- which proved the complete safety of the design. Not one single person was harmed by TMI, and no dangerous levels of radiation were released.

Meanwhile, the amount of daily environmental destruction from hundreds of coal-fired power plants continnues constantly. It's not sexy, so it doesn't get as much press...but tens of thousands of people die annually from health problems caused by coal pollution.

I won't even go into your exaggeration of the effects of Chernobyl. It's not relevant, as such runaway reactions are impossible with Western negative-void reactors...and we have far safer design on the books, should environmentalists ever allow us to build them.


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