Next-generation nuclear reactors that use radioactive waste materials as fuel

Aug 28, 2014

Hitachi announced today that they have begun joint research with three American universities aimed at using Transuranium Elements (TRUs) as fuel, and the development of Resource-renewable Boiling Water Reactors (RBWRs) that enable the effective use of uranium resources. Through this joint research, Hitachi plans to evaluate the performance and safety of RBWRs, which is being developed by Hitachi and Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., and to study plans for testing with a view toward practical applications with each university.

The uranium fuel used in contains TRUs, which are harmful to humans, and it is estimated that it takes about 100,000 years for the radioactive properties of these materials to decay to the level of uranium ore in its natural state. If TRUs could be effectively removed from these spent fuels, then the period of decay for the remaining radioactive waste materials could be reduced to just a few hundred years. For this reason, research and development is being conducted throughout the world targeting nuclear reactors that can achieve in transuranic waste.

As one solution to this challenge, Hitachi has undertaken the development of RBWRs based on Boiling Water Reactor technologies, which already have an extensive track record of applications in commercial nuclear reactors. RBWRs could potentially use TRUs separated and refined from spent fuel as fuel along with uranium. Although RBWRs use new core fuel concepts to burn TRUs, they use the same non-core components as current Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), including safety systems and turbines. As such, RBWRs are unique in that extensive experience accumulated through the application of BWRs can be leveraged to achieve efficient nuclear fission in TRUs.

Hitachi conducted joint research targeting RBWRs with MIT, U-M, and UCB from 2007 to 2011, evaluating safety and performance in the burning of TRUs, as described above. In this next stage of joint research, utilizing the knowledge and insights acquired through the previous stage, and applying the more accurate analysis methods developed by MIT, U-M, and UCB, Hitachi will continue to evaluate the safety and performance of the new reactors, and will study plans for tests with a view toward practical applications.

Hitachi will continue to apply highly reliable Monozukuri technologies to provide support for the stable supply of low-carbon energy with minimal environmental impact, while at the same time striving to further improve safety and reduce the burden of radioactive waste processing. In this way, they will contribute to the resolution of the medium- to long-term issues facing the nuclear power industry.

Explore further: Molten salt reactor concept has new Transatomic Power lift

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User comments : 21

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TCarey
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2014
Old reactor design trying to stay relevant. Don't think it will make it. This design appears to be a much better/ safer way to go. http://phys.org/n...l#inlRlv
WillieWard
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2014
No radioactive waste materials, better would be nuclear fusion instead. http://www.youtub...7j5k-_G8
11791
Aug 28, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
siquijorisland
not rated yet Aug 29, 2014
New generation meltdown proof with hydrogen fuel and desalinization from wast heat.
reusable fuel with no plutonium production.
antialias_physorg
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
then the period of decay for the remaining radioactive waste materials could be reduced to just a few hundred years.

Currently we're struggeling to store radioactive material for 2 decades without the containers rotting under our noses. A few hundred years is cool - but still way too long.

There are also very few countries/political systems that last such timeframes - so maintenance of any disposal site is likely to lapse at some point.
And I find it somewhat questionable that the expenditure needed for hundreds of years in keeping such sites secure is worth the 20 years of generating power.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
We are not struggling to store waste, the amount of radioactivity released from properly stored nuclear waste from power plants is statistically utterly negligible. I am not saying there are no issues but it is not particularly hard to store this stuff for hundreds of years. We wouldnt even need geological storage.

Change of political systems does not imply that nuclear waste is going to be released, there would have to be a particularly vicious revolution for that or something, and that is not very likely and we would have way bigger problems if that happens anyway.

20 years of generating power, really? Where did you get that number from? Single site could store waste from hundreds of reactor operation-years.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
We are not struggling to store waste, the amount of radioactivity released from properly stored nuclear waste from power plants is statistically utterly negligible. I am not saying there are no issues but it is not particularly hard to store this stuff for hundreds of years. We wouldnt even need geological storage.

I'm happy none of these storage sites are in my back yard. I'd venture you are also.
Change of political systems does not imply that nuclear waste is going to be released, there would have to be a particularly vicious revolution for that or something, and that is not very likely and we would have way bigger problems if that happens anyway.

Just watch the news any night to be reminded of how depressingly creative those who wish to inflict harm can be. It's tempting and foolish to underestimate your adversaries.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
the amount of radioactivity released from properly stored nuclear waste from power plants is statistically utterly negligible.

The 'properly' is the problem. In germany they're already finding stuff leaking and have no clue how to get it out (and it seems salt mines aren't the best places...however most countries have started using salt mines). And I'd hazard that we are dealing with our wastes at a level of dilligence that is above what you would expect in third world countries or where the issue is left to private enterprise.

there would have to be a particularly vicious revolution

Strong earthquakes do happen. Over the course of severaly centuries with a high probability for any place on Earth (with the exception of Antarctica for some reason).

Single site could store waste from hundreds of reactor operation-years.

Aren't we talking hundreds of such powerplants? Anything else would be negligible as an energy solution.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2014
The 'properly' is the problem. In germany they're already finding stuff leaking and have no clue how to get it out (and it seems salt mines aren't the best places...however most countries have started using salt mines).


Salt mines were chosen for geological storage (which is arguably really hard to do if you truly intent to store it for a million years with zero leaks). For storages of hundreds of years, conventional buildings, properly reinforced and sealed, are the best and most secure, better than a badly chosen salt mine with questionable geology. Concrete structures lasting for hundreds of years are easily within our abilities.

Strong earthquakes do happen. Over the course of severaly centuries with a high probability for any place on Earth (with the exception of Antarctica for some reason).


Nah, when you choose a geologically stable site and actually build with the expectation of a strong quake the risk of a major radioactivity release is extremely low.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
Aren't we talking hundreds of such powerplants? Anything else would be negligible as an energy solution.


Thats what you meant? Well, in that case the answer to your original statement

And I find it somewhat questionable that the expenditure needed for hundreds of years in keeping such sites secure is worth the 20 years of generating power.


is: hell yes it is worth it. Hundreds of nuclear powerplants over 20 years generate so much power that it would likely pay for centuries of storage many times over.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2014
For storages of hundreds of years, conventional buildings, properly reinforced and sealed, are the best and most secure,

Know of any building that stands for hundred (let alone hundreds) of years without the need for reconstruction?
Remember: once you start putting that stuff in you're not going in for reconstruction any more.

Look at the state of buildings we 'build to last' (e.g. massive dams, ports, containment structures for nuclear powerplants, etc. ...and the sorry state their in a mere decade or two after construction). We have no clue how to build a fire-and-forget building that lasts centuries (with the exception of some luck aequaducts).

Hundreds of nuclear powerplants over 20 years generate so much power that it would likely pay for centuries of storage many times over.

Who gets the money, who pays for the storage hundreds of years later. See the problem? Indebting future generations THAT much down the road doesn't work (and is hell of irresponsibe).
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
Aren't we talking hundreds of such powerplants? Anything else would be negligible as an energy solution.
The only viable alternative right now would be hundreds of fossil fuel plants. You've seen the numbers but have chosen to ignore them.
Know of any building that stands for hundred (let alone hundreds) of years without the need for reconstruction?

http://en.m.wikip...pyramids

-We know how to build structures which can last far longer.
and the sorry state their in a mere decade or two after construction)
As usual you exaggerate.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2014
"deep geological disposal in underground repositories in stable geological formations. Isolation is provided by a combination of engineered and natural barriers (rock, salt, clay) and no obligation to actively maintain the facility is passed on to future generations. This is often termed a multi-barrier concept , with the waste packaging, the engineered repository and the geology all providing barriers to prevent the radionuclides from reaching humans and the environment.
A repository is comprised of mined tunnels or caverns into which packaged waste would be placed. In some cases (e.g. wet rock) the waste containers are then surrounded by a material such as cement or clay (usually bentonite) to provide another barrier (called buffer and/or backfill)... (e.g. under land or nearshore), to rock units that are reasonably stable and without major groundwater flow, and to depths of between 250m and 1000m"
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2014
and no obligation to actively maintain the facility is passed on to future generations.

So...you can let anyone walk in and take what they want. Ever heard of the word 'terrorist'? Not a cool idea to leave such sites unguarded (or unmonitored. There ARE such things as geological processes)

The only viable alternative right now would be hundreds of fossil fuel plants. You've seen the numbers but have chosen to ignore them.
Funny how reality, and the rise of alternative powerplants disagree with this 'lack of alternative'. But then again: reality has never been your specialty, has it?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2014
Funny how reality, and the rise of alternative powerplants disagree with this 'lack of alternative'. But then again: reality has never been your specialty, has it?
As I said, youve been shown the numbers before and have chosen to ignore them. And you present no numbers here to back up your statement.

Alternative energy cannot replace fossil fuels for transportation and energy worldwide. Prove ME wrong for a change.
So...you can let anyone walk in and take what they want. Ever heard of the word 'terrorist'?
Terrorists cant access

"deep geological disposal in underground repositories in stable geological formations. Isolation is provided by a combination of engineered and natural barriers (rock, salt, clay) and no obligation to actively maintain the facility is passed on to future generations."

-Obviously.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2014
Medieval cathedrals lasted centuries. We absolutely know how to build buildings that can last up to a thousand years or more with modern technology, with little maintenance needed. And you can maintain and reconstruct even sites full of nuclear waste.

Who gets the money, who pays for the storage hundreds of years later. See the problem? Indebting future generations THAT much down the road doesn't work (and is hell of irresponsibe).


There could be a fund that every plant pays cents per kwh for. I fail to see why you think a lot of money is needed. Compared to the worth of produced energy, it is likely to be mere pennies.

Funny how reality, and the rise of alternative powerplants disagree with this 'lack of alternative'.


When I witness an industrial modern economy running on alternative energy (not just some % of peak electricity), in an economical manner, then we can seriously talk about alternatives as the only solution.
strangedays
5 / 5 (1) Sep 01, 2014
Otto -
Alternative energy cannot replace fossil fuels for transportation and energy worldwide. Prove ME wrong for a change.


OK

http://www.altern...e-energy
kochevnik
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
No manmade structures have lasted 100,000 years, which is the typical halflife of high-level nuclear waste
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2014
Otto -
Alternative energy cannot replace fossil fuels for transportation and energy worldwide. Prove ME wrong for a change.


OK

http://www.altern...e-energy
"Our plan calls for millions of wind turbines, water machines and solar installations... is interesting to note that the world manufactures 73 million cars and light trucks every year," etc.

-this gentleman does not discuss all the infrastructure needed to be replaced, all the power storage required, and facts such as the 30 year lifespan of hydroelectric dams and the cost of dismantling them.

I'd be willing to discuss this further but at some point you'd start bitch slapping and calling me names so sorry.
kochevnik
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
Many epidemiologic studies show that extremely low doses of radiation increase the incidence of diminished intelligence.

The fetus is sensitive to damage from radiation because fetal cells are dividing very quickly and also differentiating from immature into mature cells. In the fetus, exposure in excess of 300 mGy during 8 to 25 weeks after conception may cause reduced intelligence and poor school performance.
strangedays
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
I'd be willing to discuss this further but at some point you'd start bitch slapping and calling me names so sorry.


No problem Otto - happy to not discuss with you. Would name calling include calling people 'penis breath'. Oh right - that doesn't count - it was just a joke. Remember all the names you used to call Obamasox? Oh right - that doesn't count - I am sure you can come up with a reason why.

The fact remains that renewable energy can and will replace fossil fuels. There is more than enough solar power to power the world many times over. Sure - it is going to take some build out of infrastructure - but we did it with fossil fuels. The link I gave above supports the understanding that it is possible to power the world with renewables. It was not good enough for Otto - of course. Judge for yourselves.
strangedays
not rated yet Sep 02, 2014
Otto
Alternative energy cannot replace fossil fuels for transportation and energy worldwide. Prove ME wrong for a change.


What really intrigues me is why there is the need to make such statements. Modernmystic recently stated that renewable energy is 'obscenely expensive'.

Both of these statements are patently false - and their falseness can be demonstrated very easily. However - I find the need to be constantly making this kind of statement very weird. None of us know the future - so what energy will look like 100 years from now is of course speculative. I am excited about renewables, but also quite willing to say 'may the best man win.' So if 100 years from now - we run our world on cold fusion - who cares? As long as we get cheap - pollution free power - I am agnostic. But it seems that for many there is an almost religious need to control the future - to conform to a specific world view or something - very odd.

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