Russian officials announced a pair of major technological breakthroughs that will turn spent nuclear waste into fuel for reactors.
If true, the new technology could change the world’s energy landscape in the next decade.
Testing has already begun on components needed to reprocess waste into fuel, as has the construction of reactors to use it. The first of the new reactors should be completed by 2025.
Russia’s new reactors are theoretically capable of eliminating the production of radioactive waste, achieving a “closed loop” of nuclear power generation where waste would fuel other reactors. The country currently operates 35 nuclear reactors, getting about 19 percent of its electricity from them. The country already planned to build 20 new reactors and sell many more to other countries, according to the World Nuclear Association. The new breakthrough caused the Russian government to announce plans to build another 11 reactors.
Russia has previously exported nuclear technology to several other countries, including Iran. Russia and Iran are working together to build as many as eight new nuclear power plants and modernize existing reactors. One of these Iranian reactors will be capable of enriching uranium and plutonium, but not to weapons-grade levels.
Most other countries using nuclear power carry out some measure of spent fuel reprocessing, as it allows separating the useful atomic nuclei from nuclear waste. America does not currently reprocess nuclear waste, due to the Carter administration’s fears of potential plutonium proliferation, and is the only country with a massive nuclear waste problem.
America’s has had some success in with eliminating nuclear waste with particle accelerators, and has done so with the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tenn. A similar European particle accelerator, to be completed in 2019, already has a planned experiment to render nuclear waste harmless. Eliminating nuclear waste with particle accelerators has enormous potential, according to a scientist previously interviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Despite the potentiality solutions to nuclear waste, America is in the process of abandoning nuclear power largely due to environmental pressures. America could get less than 10 percent of its electricity from nuclear by 2050, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. currently gets 20 percent of its power from nuclear, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Of the 59 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, only four of them are being built in the U.S. — just enough to compensate for shutting down older reactors.
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