America’s Nuclear Waste is needed to Save the Planet

Spent Nuclear Fuel from US Light Water Reactors still has enormous energy value; only 3% of the Uranium in typical fuel rods is actually burned. The remainder of the fuel rod ~ 96% is disposed of as "waste" but is in fact perfectly usable fuel in alternate technology reactors and is a tremendously valuable resource. We should use SNF that has accumulated from US LWRs to provide start-up fuel for new less waste generating Thorium Reactors. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) can be started on spent nuclear fuel and then gradually converted over in the course of three decades to run pure Thorium nuclear fuel that produces only 1 part in 100 the amount of waste and 1 part in 1000 the long term radio-toxicity of waste [1]. LFTR Reactors have dramatically higher fuel efficiency (>98%) and produce, almost exclusively, easier to handle fission products as waste that decay to the benign level of the natural background in ~350 years. Thorium is 300% more abundant than natural Uranium and 55000% more abundant than Uranium-235 which is the principle fissile fuel component in current fuel rods that is actually burned by current LWRs.

Spent Nuclear Fuel retains about 1.5% U-235 and Pu-239 fissile content which is sufficient to successfully fuel properly designed LFTRs. SNF Transuranic waste can be gradually burned in the epithermal neutron spectrum of LFTR Reactors over the course of several decades to produce a combination of energy and fission products [2].

The United States generated 1,787,669,000 Megawatt-hours of electricity from burning coal in 2009. We could fully replace all of this electricity produced from burning coal by building one hundred and seventy 1200 MW(e) LFTR reactors for a cost of approximately $2 billion per reactor or $340 billion for the full replacement.

We should use America’s Spent Nuclear Fuel Resource to produce abundant less waste generating nuclear energy to become fully energy self sufficient and launch a nuclear renaissance based on improved Thorium Technology.

Thorium Molten Salt Reactors are good science. Dr. Edward Teller, the founding director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote his final paper a month before his death on the subject of the advantages of Thorium Molten Salt Reactors.
http://www.geocities.com/rmoir2003/moir_teller.pdf

AMSTER (Actinides Molten Salt Transmuter) Reactor proposed by J. Vergnes, D. Lecarpentier of Le Laboratoire de Physique Subatomique et de Cosmologie de Grenoble (LPSC)
http://www.nea.fr/html/pt/docs/iem/madrid00/Proceedings/Paper17.pdf

Ignatiev, V., Feynberg, O., Mjasnikov, A., Zakirov, R. (2003),Reactor physics and fuel cycle analysis of a molten salt advanced reactor transmuter, 2003 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP ’03).

http://www.inspi.ufl.edu/icapp03/program/abstracts/3030.pdf

“Feasibility of a Critical Molten Salt Reactor for Waste Transmutation.”
B. Becker, M. Fratoni, and E. Greenspan.

[1] Le Brun, C., “Impact of the MSBR concept technology on long-lived radio-toxicity and

proliferation resistance”, Technical Meeting on Fissile Material Management Strategies for

Sustainable Nuclear Energy, Vienna 2005

http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/04/14/97/PDF/document_IAEA.pdf

[2] E. Merle-Lucotte, D. Heuer, C. Le Brun, L. Mathieu*, R. Brissot, E. Liatard, O. Meplan, A. Nuttin “Fast Thorium Molten Salt Reactors started with Plutonium”

"ICAPP '06 : International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants (2006)

http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/13/51/41/PDF/ICAPP06_TMSR.pdf

Spent Nuclear Fuel is too valuable to be Nuclear Waste.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.