In nuclear power, a better way? Here's why.

  • Article by: Craig Bowron
  • Updated: June 8, 2013 - 9:57 AM

A better kind of reactor is essentially a miracle cure in that it dramatically reduces the waste problem.

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esandeenJun. 7, 13 9:47 PM

FWIW, as much as I like solar & wind, I do not think they alone will save us. If we can get safer nuclear on board, I'm all for it.

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supervon2Jun. 7, 1310:11 PM

Great idea. This has been passed around in physics classes for years but liquid sodium or lead is a hassle to cool without destruction of the cooling system. The bad news is we have less waste to send to North Korea. Oh, wait. That's good.

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theruntJun. 7, 1310:16 PM

That is really a well-written article. It helped me understand how nuclear plants operate. If what the author states is true, this would be transformational. Exciting!

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naseth12Jun. 7, 1311:10 PM

My only question: what are the costs of the lead or liquid sodium?

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alasdairrrJun. 8, 13 3:32 AM

The IFR is still a solid fuel reactor - the rods have to be replaced on a regular basis, as the solid fuel pellets crack and the fuel rods deform. You have to recycle the fuel inside on a regular basis. Also if you lose coolant, you're still in big trouble. These things can still melt down. There is a radically different and vastly superior technology called Thorium Molten Salt Reactors (also known as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors). These were developed in the 60s by Oak Ridge National Labs and one was operational for 5 years. China is building one at its National Academy of Sciences, as is a joint collaboration between Japan and the Czech Republic called the Fuji Molten Salt Reactor. Because the molten salt is a liquid with the nuclear fuel dissolved in it, the fuel can circulate, and you can achieve 99% burnup rate. Further, gaseous fission products such as Xenon-135 bubble out, and the fuel can be cleaned on-line, allowing an MSR continual operation. Thus the waste from an MSR is even further reduced. If you lose containment, the fuel leaks out and solidifies into a lump of salt, easily scooped up and put back in the reactor. There is also an exceptional safety feature - a passively cooled tank is situated below the main reactor vessel, connected by a pipe, with a fan blowing over it. The fan cools and freezes a lump of salt. If the reactor building loses power, the plug melts and the fuel drains into the drain tank, leaving the reactor in a completely safe walk-away state. This is an astonishing level of safety. Because MSRs can use Thorium, they have the potential to produce energy cheaper than coal - Thorium is as abundant as lead and found everywhere on Earth. It's a byproduct of the mining industry, people will pay you to take it away. There's an excellent video on Youtube called "Thorium Remix 2011" I'd recommend watching. There's also a documentary being made in Ireland called "The Good Reactor" that's on Kickstarter at the moment, which is worth looking up. Lastly there's a documentary called Pandora's Promise coming out which is all about the conventional Nuclear industry and is well worth watching.

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ruphinaJun. 8, 13 4:19 AM

I don't know about lead, but the sodium should be relatively cheap. Cargill produces millions of tons of it. I believe the sodium is made liquid by the heat of the reactor, and we suck the heat off of it to run (steam?) generators. Bill G.

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nessmessJun. 8, 13 7:55 AM

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology is far better yet, it's like finding the solution to Immortality, when compared to IFR technology... There is enough thorium on earth to power the world for 1 roughly billion years.... It is safe to handle, creates little waste and does not go critical when overheated (the sodium plug (in cooling system) will melt and drain the coolant, thus stopping the nuclear reaction - note: the exact opposite of a LWR)... In the long run, this is a much better/safer technology. Countries like India, China and a few others are building this tech. The USA nuclear reactors are 1950's designs that have outlived their usefulness. Americans need to get over their fear of nuclear energy (they need to be educated on this topic, instead of scared from it, by people with agenda's). The new designs are safe and reliable and could create pollution/carbon free energy for years to come..

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phatflyguyJun. 8, 13 8:03 AM

Nuclear power represents about 18% of our total electricity in the United States. Solar and wind are getting cheaper and more efficient every day. If we had a government that supported non-centralized power sources much more could me done more quickly. There is a reason that nuclear reactors are no longer being built, they are to expensive to build and no longer competitive with other energy sources. The day of the nuclear reactor has come and gone. Just ask Japan.

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jimjimjimjimJun. 8, 13 8:10 AM

Nuclear has always been the safest and most efficient energy source, but the anti-science left who refuses to accept facts has stonewalled and prevented us building reactors. Wind mills and solar panels look "cool" and make people feel like they have done something good, but we need to start putting aside emotions and dealing with reality. The truth is that nuclear is safe and that climates change naturally - two things the deniers will not accept.

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pumiceJun. 8, 13 8:14 AM

Re: "The new designs are safe and reliable and could create pollution/carbon free energy for years to come.." Repeating naseth12's question: "What's the cost?" Adding another question: "Who will pay the cost? In other words, without subsidies, how much will electricity cost the consumer?"

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