Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kirk Sorensen asks, "Is Nuclear Waste Really Waste?"

1 comment:

Bill Hannahan said...

Kirk’s last chart showed very well how Plutonium 240 and 241 build up in high burnup fuel. There is very little of these materials at one year. If there were another bar at 2 months it would show almost pure weapons grade plutonium 239. Those isotopes are a highly radioactive source of heat and spontaneous fission that produces a substantial neutron source. They make the construction of reliable weapons very difficult and expensive.

A nation that wants nuclear weapons can have them much faster and cheaper by building a dirt simple unpressurized plutonium production reactor that can push uranium fuel through the core continuously on line, or by building an array of centrifuges to make weapons grade uranium 235.

The U.S. has not built an experimental power reactor since 1972. Had we continued to advance the technology as we have with aircraft, computers, cars etc. we could be extracting all the heavy metal from spent fuel, recycling it into advanced reactors.

Splitting 6 ounces of heavy metal releases enough heat to generate an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity for an average American, and the resulting fission products become less radiotoxic than uranium ore in 300 years.

The U.S. needs a $100 billion per year R&D program to push all potential advanced energy systems that can mass produce reliable dispatchable energy that is cheaper than fossil fuel. I think fission would emerge as the leading technology, but if something better comes up that would be great.


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