Can Nuclear Power be Eco-Friendly?
Nuclear physicists in Berlin claim to be able to drop the life span of nuclear waste from 100,000 years to 300. But, does that make it green? And should it raise the chances of a nuclear power rethink in Germany?
The dual fluid reactor is nothing more than a proposal, at the moment. But it’s one that attempts to address the thorniest problem associated with nuclear power production.
Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is typically stored underground. In Germany, it is famously lowered into abandoned salt mines, where the bright yellow barrels expel radiation for upwards of 100,000 years.
A dual fluid reactor, says the team of researchers developing it, would drop that number to between 300 and 600 years.
The key is swapping nuclear fuel rods for salt mixtures. Liquid salts with heavy nuclei – plutonium chloride or uranium chloride are the examples used by the nuclear physicists in the project – would flow in continuous circles. After burning in the reactor core and producing energy, the liquid is then channelled through an internal treatment plant, where burned components are separated off and the mixture is enriched once more with fresh, long-life radionuclides. It’s then sent back through the reactor core for another round of energy production.
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