Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pandora's Promise

I've mentioned thorium reactors a few times on this blog, but today I read about integral fast reactors (IFRs). Local physician Craig Bowron writes of them:

The ability of an integral fast reactor to burn far more efficiently means drastically reduced “waste” — from 95 percent with today’s reactors to 20 percent with IFRs. And that 20 percent is easily recyclable in the same reactor for further destruction, leaving at most 1 percent of true waste at the end. That 1 percent is still radioactive, but it goes back to “neutral” (as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium) in about 300 years, not the 100,000 years it will take for fuel rods from today’s reactors. Not only can IFRs burn the nuclear waste we’ve accumulated in the last 60 years, they can also turn swords into plowshares by burning weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.
Burn up the nuclear waste we've been accumulating. Make it possible to dispose of weapons-grade fuels. Create energy. Leave behind a relatively small amount of waste that can be managed within timeframes humans can understand. All while putting out no CO2 or other greeenhouse gases.

Yes, please.

According to Bowron, the Argonne National Lab has been working on the technology for decades, and "GE-Hitachi has an IFR prototype, and they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding to build one in South Carolina."

IFRs are the subject of a new documentary, Pandora's Promise, which opens soon. I know I am not technically able to assess the safety or viability of the technology, but it sure sounds like it could part of the solution.

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