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Nuclear Waste May No Longer Be Wasted

Jun 19, 13 Nuclear Waste May No Longer Be Wasted

Nuclear energy is one of most energy efficient and cleanest forms of energy, besides the massive amount of nuclear waste that is created from the uranium that is broken down over time. This has been one the biggest deterrents of nuclear energy for Americans, as we really don’t have very much space to put this radioactive waste and we certainly don’t have the money to ship it some place. There already exists 65,000 tons of radioactive waste and it isn’t going to go down any sooner at the rate of radioactive waste production. So, the real question is, can we actually use this glob of radioactive sludge for something? Well, a scientist from Texas A&M University believes that there is actually a way to not only get rid of this waste, but also use it as a source of energy.

Dr. Peter McIntyre has come up with a new process called accelerator-driven subcritical fission in a molten salt core, or ADSMS. What this process actually does is that it is able to remove the transuranic, or radioactive, material with an atomic number above uranium, and convert that material into energy. What is left is uranium, which can be used again to create more energy or be used in other experiments.

When we talk about this radioactive material, it is exactly this transuranic material that causes this radioactive waste to be so harmful and hard to dispose of. Many of these transuranic elements have a half-life of almost 100,000 years and will last far longer than we ever will. It is for this reason that Dr. McIntyre sought a way of removing this waste and allowing us to store this material safely or utilize it once again.

According to Dr. McIntyre, the process of ADSMS is also very beneficial beyond removing waste from used of uranium. The system also operates by using up final amounts of uranium within fuel rods. Not only is it able to remove the remaining amounts, but it is also able to make 10 times the amount of energy when compared to a conventional nuclear reactor that extracts the energy from the fuel rods.

When there is opportunity in nuclear power, there are always risks or obstacles. In the case of ADSMS, this idea is revolutionary and still needs a great amount of study to ensure that it is useful and safe. The other thing is that if we were to use these radioactive transuranic elements, we would no longer have the material to make weapons. The nuclear waste is utilized to create nuclear based weapons. Finally, and in my eyes not really a problem, is it may take up to a decade to remove all of this waste that we have already. To some, it is too much time.

Many people see it as great progress in creating a cleaner and more efficient world. If we can remove the waste and create energy from it, while being safe, it should be studied and implemented so that others may learn how to keep the Earth cleaner and happier.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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