Friday, January 30, 2009

Transmuting Waste to Fuels With Neutrons

Ancient and medieval alchemists dreamed of transmuting lead to gold. But modern alchemists can use neutron transmutation to turn nuclear waste into useful energy -- a far more useful transmutation. Recently, both Brian Wang and Brian Westenhaus have discussed a new approach to nuclear transmutation from the University of Texas, Austin.

The Texas group plans to use a combination of a tokamak fusion neutron source along with a "Super X Neutron Divertor" to transform a blanket of nuclear waste into productive nuclear fuel -- producing heat from fission to make steam and generate electrical power.

Is the Tokamak fusor the best source of neutrons for this project? Perhaps, perhaps not. I suspect not. But until Focus Fusion or the Polywell group can begin generating neutrons in the quantities required for converting nuclear waste into fissile fuel, we may be stuck with the Tokamak.

Nuclear fission has been growing safer and more reliable over the past few decades, and the fission power industry has been planning a significant expansion worldwide. An injection of new fuel supplies from this hybrid fusion:fission approach would be an important boost to the long-term sustainability and safety of fission power.

No need to store nuclear waste, just keep re-using it until it is no longer dangerous (or potential fuel). Environmentalist Luddites hate the idea of nuclear energy, and since they dominate the Obama administration, it is unlikely that this important development will receive much support from Luddite DC.

But science continues, even when the dominant reich is made up of fools and nihilists. University labs, National Labs, and private labs have an amazing amount of research momentum going. It will take some time for the Luddites in DC to gain total control. By that time, we can always hope that voters will come to their senses.

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