Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nuclear Energy for Many Thousands of Years from Depleted Uranium, Thorium, More

Brian Westenhaus describes a new approach to long-term nuclear reactor fueling, using depleted and unenriched uranium.
The idea is that with un-enriched fuel, the reactors could be loaded up with fuel and sealed for 30 to 60 years primarily because the stockpile of uranium would go further. Not using enriched fuel reduces the risks associated with nuclear proliferation and transportation as well as reducing the amount of radioactive nuclear waste. Depleted uranium is also a waste product in the enrichment process. But TerraPower’s reactor needs some enriched uranium, at the beginning to initiate the reaction.

Intellectual Ventures thinks the switch could also mean that the available supplies of uranium could be exploited to provide power for centuries or even thousands of years, far longer than the projections using enriched uranium. _More at NewEnergyandFuel
Brian Wang has an update on Thorium reactor plans, and other ways of extending nuclear fuel.
From Resource Investor: I am personally aware of the fact that, even as I write, major American, Canadian, French and British nuclear engineering companies are forming strategic alliances to seek funding under Hatch-Reid to go forward with the development of thorium-based nuclear power reactors for the production of electricity for civilian use. _Much More at NextBigFuture
Brian further describes a laser uranium enrichment plant being considered for North Carolina. The process is reportedly up to 10 times more efficient than other enrichment methods.

Many clever ways of extending nuclear power into the future are being developed. Sometime, between 10 and 1000 years from now, humans will perfect nuclear fusion as an energy source and hopefully also as a space propulsion method. Until then, we will need to use the energy sources that are available.



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