Nuclear Fusion-fission Hybrid Could Contribute To Carbon-free Energy Future

From ScienceDaily, some promising fission-fusion combo technology that could safely and effectively burn up most nuclear waste. Disposing of waste is one of the concerns about what is otherwise a phenomenal option for energy production.

Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants.

“We have created a way to use fusion to relatively inexpensively destroy the waste from nuclear fission,” says Mike Kotschenreuther, senior research scientist with the Institute for Fusion Studies (IFS) and Department of Physics. “Our waste destruction system, we believe, will allow nuclear power-a low carbon source of energy-to take its place in helping us combat global warming.”

First, 75 percent of the original reactor waste is destroyed in standard, relatively inexpensive LWRs. This step produces energy, but it does not destroy highly radiotoxic, transuranic, long-lived waste, what the scientists call “sludge.”

In the second step, the sludge would be destroyed in a [Compact Fusion Neutron Source] CFNS-based fusion-fission hybrid. The hybrid’s potential lies in its ability to burn this hazardous sludge, which cannot be stably burnt in conventional systems.

The process would ultimately reduce the transuranic waste from the original fission reactors by up to 99 percent.

Read the full article.

BBC Street Science 2: Nuclear power

In the second programme of BBC Radio 4’s Street Science series this week,former technical director of British Nuclear Fuels Dr. Sue Lion tried to defend nuclear power to members of an alternative technology centre in West Yorkshire.

There’s a little more controversy with this discussion than with the previous day’s. Lion sticks to a realistic view: that we’ll never have the electrical capacity with wind, water and solar power alone. She also explains that nuclear power is much safer than it used to be. I agree with both these points, but they’re not enough to overcome the group’s concerns about safety and waste.

I’m worried that the UK is already too far behind in their nuclear power planning and it’s going to be too late to catch up before current stations need to be retired.