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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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Severe Misrepresentation
By jtemplin on 4/15/2008 10:20:45 PM , Rating: 2
Describing the downsides of nuclear waste typically might include descriptions of half-life decay times, deleterious effects on biological systems etc instead the worst the author had to say was this:
unsightly nuclear waste

The flamingo in my neighbors lawn is unsightly...but it definitely isn't going to cause genetic mutations.

RE: Severe Misrepresentation
By nofranchise on 4/16/2008 4:49:30 AM , Rating: 1
Well said sir!

I once witnessed the incredible process of "safe" storage of spent fuel rods. From the rods being inserted into a HUGE metal/concrete cylinder - which is warm to the touch because of the radiation - to the transport by boat and the insertion into deep primeval bedrock.

This is a costly and still controversial process, and I am very pleased, some research is going into improving the way we handle nuclear waste - or hopefully lack of waste in the future.

On a side note: Lets build nuclear plants, but keep the electricity bill high, and spend the extra cash on research into fusion. Come on people - how long can it take to get this to work!!??

RE: Severe Misrepresentation
By mindless1 on 4/16/2008 5:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
Let's not keep the electric bill high, that places a burden on the poor working class upon which the country depends.

Let's instead place a large tax on luxury electrical products, even a lesser tax on non-electrical luxury products because manufacturing and distribution isn't *free*.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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