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New Nuclear Design Opens Options March 16, 2009

Posted by OldGuy in Uncategorized.
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Promising new options for nuclear power production, Intellectual Ventures of Bellview, Washington has described how traveling wave technology could use waste uranium from older reactors to generate power.

Current technology requires specialized technology to refine the common uranium-238 into uranium-235, which splits more easily. But the -235 slows down its rapid energy decay in just 18-24 months, requiring the reactor to be shut down and the rods replaced. The spent rods become hazardous waste that could be reprocessed into bomb-grade uranium.

Intellectual Ventures has described a method to use only a small amount of -235 as a catalyst to create a slow-moving wave through the uranium-238, moving at only a centimeter year. In theory, the reactor could run for decades without refueling.

Among the technical challenges are the cooling methods. This design runs so hot it needs liquid sodium to carry the heat away to the generators. The traveling wave generator would run at about 550ºC; today’s reactors run at 330ºC.

We’re still some time away from producing a commercial traveling wave plant, but this technology has promise. New energy from hazardous waste is win-win.

source: Technology Review

see also Intellectual Ventures