Should We Be Burning Our Nuclear Waste?

GE-Hitachi have recently announced their plan to build a so-called Prism fast reactor, which could help in the disposal of nuclear waste – by burning it.

According to some statistics there are a hundred tonnes of plutonium waste in the UK, which is currently converted into mixed-oxide fuel (Mox). This fuel is burnt afterwards in a water-cooled reactor, this process is a bit more complicated and less efficient. Mox is widely used in France but the factory in Sellafield, UK, was ordered to close down last year.

The PRISM-type fast-breeder reactors were considered to only be available in the distant future, but GE-Hitachi have already drawn up a feasibility study, which is being reviewed right now. According to company experts, it could be ready in only five years after licensing, and this solution allows the extraction of rather large amounts of energy from the nuclear waste, and it’s cheaper than the Mox technology. Furthermore, this type of disposal would mean that there is no need to bury it deep underground.

Radioactive waste is created in many industries, and its treatment varies based on its half life. Some only need to be stored for hours or days but some have thousands of years of half life, thus it is important to find a good solution for their storage. Throughout the years there have been several options and ideas, which may not be appropriate any more. Many countries used to dispose of nuclear waste in oceans, which is now forbidden, but there were suggestions to keep them in the ice sheets or in outer space, as well.

Promising solutions, like the PRISM reactor, may help the treatment of dangerous nuclear waste but the question and controversy regarding nuclear energy still remains.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 


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