Allison Macfarlane, Sharon Squassoni: Now that Americans are “woke” about waste in general, they may turn to the specific kind produced by the nuclear energy industry. Plans to revitalize US nuclear power, which is in dire economic straits, depend on the potential for new, “advanced” reactors to reduce and recycle the waste they produce. Unfortunately, as they “burn” some kinds of nuclear wastes, these plants will create other kinds that also require disposal. At the same time, these “advanced” reactors—many of which are actually reprises of past efforts—increase security and nuclear weapons proliferation risks and ultimately do nothing to break down the political and societal resistance to finding real solutions to nuclear waste disposal. The current nuclear dream is really no different from previous ones of the last 70 years: the next generation of reactors, nuclear power advocates insist, will be safer, cheaper, more reliable, less prone to produce nuclear bomb-making material, and more versatile (producing electricity, heat, and perhaps hydrogen), without creating the wastes that have proved almost impossible to deal with in the United States. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act specifically describes the advanced reactors it seeks to support as having all those positive characteristics. This newest burst of enthusiasm for advanced reactors is, however, largely fueled by the idea that they will burn some of their long-lived radioisotopes, thereby becoming nuclear incinerators for some of their own waste. Building expensive prototypes of reactors whose fuel requires reprocessing, on the belief that such reactors will solve the nuclear waste problem in America, is misguided. At the same time, discounting the notion that a US move into reprocessing might spur other countries to develop this same technology—a technology they could secretly exploit to produce nuclear weapons—is short sighted and damaging to US national and world security.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 8th July 2019 read more »
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $49.3 million (£39.6m) to help accelerate the development of advanced nuclear energy technologies. A total of 58 nuclear energy research, cross-cutting technology development and infrastructure projects in 25 states are sharing the funding. More than $28.5 million (£22.9m) is supporting 40 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects and an additional $1.6 million (£1.3m) has been granted for research reactor and infrastructure improvements. Five research and development projects, led by the DOE national laboratories and US universities, are receiving $4.5 million (£3.6m) to address nuclear challenges that will help develop advanced sensors, manufacturing methods and materials for multiple reactor plants and fuel applications.
Energy Live News 9th July 2019 read more »