The U.S. Department of Energy through a competitive process announced that it has selected teams led by Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory to advance the technology of nuclear fuel called “Deep-Burn.” This revolutionary technology in which plutonium and higher transuranics recycled from spent nuclear fuel are destroyed while generating energy not only advances nuclear power production but also reduces the amount of radioactive waste produced in the end.

DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon says, “Deep-Burn R&D is valuable and it has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of long-lasting waste produced by the nation’s next generation of nuclear power reactors. At the same time this technology could greatly increase the amount of safe, economical, carbon-free electricity generated by advanced nuclear fuel.”

The goal is to establish one of the prototype reactors being researched under the Department’s Generation IV Nuclear power program the technological foundations that will support the role of the Very-High-Temperature, gas-cooled Reactor (VHTR) in the nuclear fuel cycle. There are two parts in the process: Advanced Modeling and Simulation Capability for VHTR Development and Design at a cost of $1 million led by the Argonne National Laboratory; and Transuranic Management Capabilities of the Deep-Burn VHTR at a cost of $6.3 million led by the Idaho National Laboratory.

The mission of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) is the production of high-temperature heat to use for generation of electricity. Another goal of this work is to enable a quantitative assessment of the scope, cost and schedule implications of extending the NGNP mission in the future to destruction of plutonium and other transuranics. The Deep-Burn R&D effort will be coordinated with the ongoing Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) programs to ensure synergism and to avoid duplication of efforts. The R&D that will be carried out is a part of DOE’s Generation IV program, which aims to further the fundamental R&D to ensure the viability of the next-generation of nuclear energy systems.

As Brian Wang points out on his site “Next Big Future,” the world is using 64,000 tons of uranium per year at only 5% efficiency whereas using deep burn technology the fuel use would drop to 3200 tons, a reduction to 5% of the fuel used today. As noted above the deep burn offers a huge reduction in net waste of dangerous materials. Brian also points out that several reactors designs along with designs incorporating thorium fuel are options, too. He also notes accurately that thorium is more common than uranium in the earth’s crust.

As consumers interested in lower costs, Brian notes that back in 1972 the U.S. completed 12 reactors. This illustrates what could be done if the regulatory framework worked for the citizen’s needs. In passing, as Brian is wont to do, he runs the numbers on oil equivalent out to 2030 for the deep burn and uranium fuel sourced from seawater recovery using the technology we have at hand right now that equals 8500 trillion barrels of oil. He says that’s 850 times the estimates of total coal, oil and natural gas.

Just to poke the American eye that’s not paying attention, China has 100 AP-1000 nuclear reactors ordered, building or scheduled for completion by 2020. That’s the kind of thing that makes a citizen want to throw the chairs at the dopey politicians.

On the waste issue Brian does a little comparing and example making to put the curious at ease. 60,000 tons is less than the weight or displacement of a container ship and would handily stack up on a basketball court. Once deep burned, the remainder has a half-life of less than 30 years and has valuable constructive and economic uses. It’s burned down to an atomic weight lower than thorium – no bomb grade material remains.

Brian’s post is a list of observations, quotes, and links to a wide array of information on nuclear power. Brian obviously rushes his posts as he’s has to be extremely busy, so the navigation is up to the reader. It’s as if one is reading headlines, and many of the listing have links to the deeper explanations. It’s a blog page well worth reviewing and bookmarking. This link is a data rich site, it should be required reading for anyone that’s interested, writing for others, making policy, or in the business. I hope Brian keeps it up.

Nuclear fission power is accelerating; some politicians like the governator, candidates for president and other offices realize the transition to electrical energy is inevitable. There is a national, worldwide and distinctly humanity wide opportunity here. The only thing stopping it is ill-informed, misleading and over funded hysteria. For the industry the risk is political and the opposing players, the development of fusion, BlackLight, and other innovations that may simply undercut the price of the saleable power. For consumers, the enemy to your family, home, job and lifestyle security isn’t atomic fuels, it’s the opponents to economic growth playing in the political arena against your best interests. Their weapon is fear – your weapon is knowledge.


10 Comments so far

  1. Ken on July 31, 2008 7:25 AM

    Kirk Sorenson recently gave this presentation at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. It is also worth a look.

    There is also a thorium based fuel design nearing commercialization that is proliferation resistant and produces vastly less transuranic waste which can be utilized in PWRs such as the AP1000. This is being brought to commercialization by Thorium Power ltd and was developed over the last 15 years during the megatons to megawatts program as a means of destroying plutonium.

  2. Brian Westenhaus on July 31, 2008 8:14 AM

    Thank YOU KEN! That’s a fine powerpoint on thorium and one of the reactor options. Well worth a look if you have MS Powerpoint, pretty complete. It again illustrates the energy we don’t have is readily available through engineering and intelligent politics.

  3. Greedy guts! on July 31, 2008 2:20 PM

    FuelCost News Linked to “A Look At the Road of Nuclear Power2008-07-31 16:21:23”

  4. A Look At the Road of Nuclear Power · on August 1, 2008 4:27 PM

    […] Cost News » News News A Look At the Road of Nuclear Power2008-08-01 18:28:01Fuel cycle. There are two parts in the Argonne National Laboratory; … […]

  5. Nuclear-Power » Log in to the Consultation on August 3, 2008 9:18 AM

    […] A Look At the Road of Nuclear PowerThis revolutionary technology in which plutonium and higher transuranics recycled from spent nuclear fuel are destroyed while generating energy not only advances nuclear power production but also reduces the amount of radioactive waste … […]

  6. Araceli Dolfay on May 26, 2011 9:28 AM

    This post makes a lot of sense !

  7. Werner Legoullon on August 29, 2011 8:29 AM

    I’ve just started off a blog, the knowledge you give on this site has aided me extremely. Thank you for all your time & work.

  8. Shannon Janosek on September 7, 2011 10:30 AM

    Good! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

  9. Shannon Janosek on September 12, 2011 10:21 AM

    Great read. Thanks for the info!

  10. Felipa Giessinger on September 19, 2011 10:45 AM

    Thanks for posting. Good to see that not everyone is using RSS feeds to build their blogs 😉

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