Use Nuclear 'Waste' as Fuel with the Ultimate Nuclear Reactor

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posted on Oct, 25 2010 @ 10:54 AM
This is about a type of nuclear reactor known as the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) which can be thought of as the ultimate nuclear reactor that essentially solves all problems burdening existing nuclear power. I don't want to make this too complicated, so I'll try to be as non-technical as possible.


1. This design destroys existing nuclear waste reducing the radiotoxicity of existing nuclear waste by many orders of magnitude.
2. No mining is required for hundreds of years as we destroy depleted uraniun stockpiles.
3. It should be economically competitive.
4. It is very safe by use of the laws of nature for safety, rather than operators.
5. No enrichment is required.
6. Greater proliferation resistance over current reactors.

Destroying existing nuclear waste.
In a nuclear reactor, two main kinds of wastes form. One is formed when the fuel absorbs a neutron and becomes a very heavy element that is highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. These are known as actinides. The other kind of waste is known as a fission product, created when the fuel atoms split apart after they are struck by a neutron, these are radioactive for a few hundred years. In a conventional nuclear reactor, the neutrons are slowed by water or graphite and therefore do not have the kinetic energy necessary to use these actinides as fuel. In this reactor, known as a fast reactor, the coolant is sodium which does not slow down neutrons, which now have the kinetic energy to use practically all actinides as fuel. Therefore this reactor can consume existing nuclear waste of fuel, reducing the size of the required waste repository by a factor of between four and fifty, and the waste is now only radioactive for 500 years instead of over 100,000 years. Deployment of one new plant per year for 30 years would eliminate spent nuclear fuel (nuclear waste) in the United States within the lifetime of the plant.

No mining required for hundreds of years
A fast reactor operated on a breeding cycle can also increase the efficiency of a nuclear plant by a factor of 100 by enabling use of depleted uranium and requiring no enrichment. Uranium is approximately 0.7% Uranium-235, and 99.3% Uranium-238. In a conventional reactor, enrichment is required so the fuel is 5% Uranium-235, which discards a very large amount of Uranium-238. For the most part, it is only the this Uranium-235 that is actually used in the nuclear reaction. In a fast breeder reactor, the Uranium-238 can also be utilized as a fuel because when struck with a neutron it forms Plutonium-239 which can be used as a fuel. In essence, it turns something that is not a fuel, into something that is a fuel.

Pictured: Depleted Uranium canisters at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky

Each cylinder contains up to 14,000 kilograms of Uranium Hexafluoride
We have 38,000 cylinders just sitting there at this one enrichment facility in the United States.
Each is equivalent to 60 million megawatt ours at the generator if utilized in a fast breeder reactor.
The 38,000 cylinders are enough to power the United States for 570 years, or are equivalent to trillions of dollars worth of fuel.

When mining is required after 600 years, only a small amount will be required due to the extremely high efficiencies attained.

U in LWR = Uranium in Light Water Reactors (current reactors)
U in IFR = Uranium in Integral Fast Reactor
(this picture is old, the figures for all have risen substantially, but it illustrates the point well enough.


For a new power source to be viable, the cost of power must be competitive with today's power systems. The proof of costs in any project only comes when full- sized systems are built and operated. Although no full-sized IFR plant has been built, several facts suggest that the IFR will be very economic. Costs of today's nuclear plants are just slightly above that of coal as a national average. Several nuclear plants have operated with costs significantly below that of coal however. A new IFR should cost less than either a new nuclear (typical of today's technology) or coal plant based on the following. The IFR does not require some of the complex systems that today's reactors require. Examples include the low level radwaste cleanup station, the emergency core cooling system, and fewer control rod drives and control rods for comparable power. Because of the low pressure in the sodium systems, less steel is required for the plant piping and reactor vessel. There are studies that suggest that the reactor containment will be less massive. Other cost savings will be made because the IFR does not require the services of the Isotopic Separation Plants for fuel enrichment. Additional costs to the IFR include the integral fuel reprocessing capability, and a secondary sodium system (but the IFR fuel process costs are somewhat offset by the extremely low cost for raw fuel and the improved waste product). Some studies have been done which indicate that an IFR would be very economical and competitive to build, own, and operate, but the final proof of economics can only come in the construction and operation of a commercial sized plant.

(this was on the UC Berkley website until it was removed)

The sodium coolant is extremely conductive and therefore the reactor has enormous thermal inertia. The reactor will shut itself down in all situations because the fuel expands due to the laws of nature, therefore the reaction stops by itself. It is design to survive a 0.5g earthquake (Haiti quake was 0.3g) without significant damage. Radiation doses to the workers are between 1%-2% of existing reactors, the amount of extra radiation above background is therefore negligible (it already is in current plants I might add).

The IFR gains safety advantages through a combination of metal fuel (an alloy of uranium, plutonium, and zirconium), and sodium cooling. By providing a fuel which readily conducts heat from the fuel to the coolant, and which operates at relatively low temperatures, the IFR takes maximum advantage of expansion of the coolant, fuel, and structure during off-normal events which increase temperatures. The expansion of the fuel and structure in an off-normal situation causes the system to shut down even without human operator intervention. In April of 1986, two special tests were performed on the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II), in which the main primary cooling pumps were shut off with the reactor at full power (62.5 Megawatts, thermal) - By not allowing the normal shutdown systems to interfere, the reactor power dropped to near zero within about 300 seconds. No damage to the fuel or the reactor resulted. This test demonstrated that even with a loss of all electrical power and the capability to shut down the reactor using the normal systems, the reactor will simply shut down without danger or damage. The same day, this demonstration was followed by another important test. With the reactor again at full power, flow in the secondary cooling system was stopped. This test caused the temperature to increase, since there was nowhere for the reactor heat to go. As the primary (reactor) cooling system became hotter, the fuel, sodium coolant, and structure expanded, and the reactor shut down. This test showed that an IFR type reactor will shut down using inherent features such as thermal expansion, even if the ability to remove heat from the primary cooling system is lost. Events such as the loss of water to the steam system would cause a condition such as the test demonstrated. Another major feature of the IFR concept is that the reactor uses a coolant, sodium, which does not boil during normal operation nor even in overpower transients such as described above. This means that the coolant is not under significant pressure. When coolant is not under pressure, the reactor can be placed in a "pool" of coolant, contained in a double tank, so that there is no real possibility for a loss of coolant. Even if the normal pumps are lost, some coolant flow through the reactor occurs due to natural convection. The features described above allow for greater simplification of a nuclear plant, resulting in cost savings, greater ease in operation, and a safety system that relies on natural phenomenon that cannot be defeated by human error.

Greater proliferation resistance over current reactors.

The diversion of nuclear fuel for the purpose of making bombs has been a concern, although presently the handling and destruction of nuclear weapons material is the primary issue. In the IFR, the nature of the fuel reprocessing is such that the fuel remains highly radioactive at all times. Fuel can only be handled in shielded cells or transported in casks weighing many tons. In addition, because the fuel recycle facility is located on-site, there is no transportation of nuclear which could create an opportunity for diversion. In any event, IFR fuel is not suitable for weapons without extensive processing in very expensive facilities. The potential also exists for the IFR to use weapons material for fuel, thus eliminating it, while producing electricity.

And as previously mentioned, no enrichment is required.

Documentary on the technology:

Where are we today?
The IFR program was canceled in 1994, after decades of work, just two years from completion. We have global warming (fine, cross it out if you believe it's fake), resource depletion, and the proposed plan to store nuclear waste has backfired. This need for this technology is as urgent as ever. We should restart the IFR program for unlimited safe, clean, and economic energy. Additionally, France, Japan, Russia, Korea, and China are developing this technology, the US will be left behind if it doesn't develop it. If we start now we could have the system commercialized within 15 years.

More information:

One final note: It's also possible for a slow neutron reactor to have the same advantages as the IFR if it utilizes thorium. This type of reactor has been discussed elsewhere on ATS.
edit on 25/10/10 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 25 2010 @ 11:47 AM
Forget nuclear reactors.
Mass-produce zero-point-field power generators.

posted on Oct, 25 2010 @ 11:51 AM
reply to post by Larryman

I've stated this many many times, good luck to people researching ZPE, just don't most people to believe it until there's proper evidence for an actual working generator. Good luck, but it's not an alternative to energy sources we know are viable. Thanks but no thanks.
edit on 25/10/10 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 26 2010 @ 01:10 AM
It sounds as if fast breeder reactors are the way to go because they're best

posted on Oct, 30 2010 @ 11:31 PM
General Electric is designing a reactor called S-PRISM which is practically exactly the same as the IFR. This is a presentation on the technology if you're interested, but it's rather technical. The first few minutes of the first video are an introduction to GE, just skip through that to get to the actual history.

edit on 30/10/10 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2010 @ 10:51 AM
reply to post by C0bzz

Couldn't agree more. If countries like China, etc. are doing this or developing this, why not a superpower like the states?

posted on Nov, 2 2010 @ 01:24 AM
S&F !

This is wonderful news

Highly informative I will take a deeper look when I'm home from work.

posted on Nov, 6 2010 @ 05:00 AM
I bet the energy industry still fights it while pretending to be environmentalists

Unrelated question: What does Superman use to shave with? Is he just not manly enough to grow a beard?

posted on Nov, 6 2010 @ 05:01 AM
S&F c0bzz.

You're friggin smart, do somethin with it bro.

Also, good technology, and hope it gets put into play. Wish I knew more about this kind of stuff

posted on Nov, 20 2010 @ 10:53 PM
reply to post by C0bzz

Well, while it is admirable to re-use this product, as a fuel source, it concerns me.

There is far too much room for an abuse of the elimination processes.

Whether it comes from the originator of the nuclear waste or the end-user.

I realize something has to be done with the waste but it needs to be regulated up the wazoo.

Plus there is the concern of terrorists getting it and manufacturing a dirty bomb.

I know I do not want it buried under Yucca Mountain though.

posted on Nov, 21 2010 @ 12:55 AM
The biggest expense in nuclear power is dismantling old nuclear power plants.

One way to cut this cost is to build the plants at the old nuclear test site in Nevada.

Build the HOT(radioactive) sides of the plants so that after they are worn out they can be de-fueled and left in place and a new hot side built and piped into the generator side.

This would cut the cost of decommissioning to very little.

Since the test site is contaminated already and will be so for 1000s of years from nuclear testing there is no big loss.
as this land is already lost and this would be a gain by using it.

Plus there is the concern of terrorists getting it and manufacturing a dirty bomb.

one highly secure site would eliminate this danger as getting nuclear fuel off the test site would be just about impossible with everything on one site with multiple layers of security around it.
Also this would cut the cost and danger of shipping spent nuclear fuel across the country.
You could even site reprocessing plants there to and make everything at one highly secure site.
The one problem might be water supply but that could be worked around with states that use the power piping or shipping water by train to the test site.
And with all that power there the water could be recycled without much problem.

Having one big nuclear power plant area in the country and transmission lines to feed the rest of the US would make safeguards and security easy as everything would be in one place.(national power grid)
edit on 21-11-2010 by ANNED because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 04:12 AM
reply to post by C0bzz

I like how this technology is already out there but there are not any private entities able to pour some of their resources into more research and development into this kind of refining. I see how it has potential to reduce our nuclear waste, with little consequence; but that is truly unknown at the moment. when i read this it reminded me of this video i saw a few weeks ago how we can use plastics and create gasoline.

As you can see this little machine is able to create fuel from garbage like your super reactor. although its not as wowing as the reactor in the OP but there are similar technologies out there that can recycle and reuse garbage. Imagine the dents we would make even if this little machine was readily available to mass convert all our plastics that are not reusable? how about all those plastic bottles that are washing up on shores in the pacific?

The nuclear reactor however seems more robust that the machine in the video and would like to see more developments in this type of technology and work towards a way to perfect this technology. If we are able to attain this kind of recycling ability then we would be well on or way in reducing pollution and at the same time meet some of the growing power needs in the USA and abroad.

S&F & hope there is some kind of implementation of this technology with a few prototype reactors to woo in some potential investors.

Good stuff!

posted on Feb, 17 2011 @ 10:01 AM
No more news about this?

I find the reactors facinating and i think the should get MORE
attention by the goverments...

posted on Feb, 17 2011 @ 11:09 AM

Originally posted by Miccey
No more news about this?

I find the reactors facinating and i think the should get MORE
attention by the goverments...
People are afraid of nuclear causing cancer and of terrorists getting the plutonium. AS the video says, it's hard to separate atoms of peace from atoms of war.

Most of this fear, unfortunately, is overblown. But it's not beyond any doubt that IFR or similar technologies still require a sum of money to complete the idea and produce a commercial-scale plant.

It's insane watching that video and seeing Clinton say that IFR was no longer important.

Ok, so Clinton, what do we have that's better? Hmm?
edit on 17-2-2011 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 24 2011 @ 09:59 PM
With respect to Fukushima:

Preliminary lessons from Fukushima for future nuclear power plants

Guest Post by Dr. William Hannum. Bill worked for more than 40 years in nuclear power development, stretching from design and analysis of the Shippingport reactor to the Integral Fast Reactor.

Advanced recycling, where essentially all of the recyclable material is recovered and used (as opposed to recovery and recycle of plutonium) presents a different picture. Full recycling is effective only with a fast reactor. A metal fuel, clad in stainless steel, allows a design of a sodium-cooled fast reactor with astonishing passive safety characteristics. Because the sodium operates far from its boiling point in an essentially unpressurized system, catastrophic events caused by leakage or pipe failures cannot occur. The metal fuel gives the system very favorable feedback characteristics, so that even the most extreme disruptions are passively accommodated. A complete loss of cooling, such as at Fukushima, leads to only a modest temperature rise. Even if the control system were rendered inoperable, and the system lost cooling but remained at full power (this is a far more serious scenario than Fukushima, where the automatic shutdown system operated as designed) the system would self-stabilize at low power, and be cooled by natural convection to the atmosphere. Should the metal fuel fail for any reason, internal fission product gases would cause the fuel to foam and disperse, providing the most powerful of all shutdown mechanisms.

The only situation that could generate energy to disperse material from the reactor is the possibility of s sodium-water reaction. By using an intermediate sodium system (reactor sodium passes its energy to a non-radioactive sodium system, which then passes its energy to water to generate steam to turn the electrical generator), the possibility of a sodium-water reaction spreading radioactive materials is precluded.

These reactors must accommodate seismic challenges, just as any other reactor type. While there are many such design features in common with other reactor designs, the problem is simpler for the fast reactor because of the low pressure, and the fact that this type of reactor does not need elaborate water injection systems.

edit on 24/3/11 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 24 2011 @ 10:46 PM
Another type of reactor that is the Energy amplifier type reactor.

This reactor can use Thorium, old spent reactor fuel and depleted uranium.

Because its a subcritical reactor it needs no control rods and shuts down anytime it loses its particle accelerator driver.

You can also set up a number of these reactors to use one particle accelerator as a driver cutting cost and saving space.

The big advantage of this type reactor is they burn up fuel leaving a lot less waste to have to be stored long term.

posted on Jul, 4 2011 @ 12:34 PM
Another interesting video:

posted on Aug, 28 2011 @ 09:50 AM
Great thread!

I love learning something new - most of this qualified. This is yet another example that illustrates how much potential we have to move away from our current, dangerous forms of energy creation.

600 years of power..

I'm willing to bet we will have come up with a truly clean and renewable resource far before we ran out of DU supplies. This is a step in the right direction, hope to see it's evolution.

posted on Aug, 28 2011 @ 02:38 PM
I was wondering when thorium accelerator reactors would be mentioned. I admit I myself know little about it all but one has to wonder why such technologies are not in place already, seeing as it would alleviate great costs in dealing with spent nuclear fuel, in a market driven by costs.

posted on Oct, 2 2011 @ 02:44 AM

Petition the White House for next-generation nuclear fission

This is in response to a brand new feature of the Obama Administration’s, called “We the People.” It’s an online petition forum in which any petition that garners 5000 signatures within 30 days will be considered and get an official response. Non-binding, but it’s a way to educate and be heard. The system encourages use of social media to gauge public support.

If you are a U.S. citizen (and I know more than 600 of BNC subscribers are), please show your support.

The petition:

We petition the Obama administration to restart the Integral Fast Reactor nuclear power technology program. Without delay, the U.S. should build a commercial-scale demonstration reactor and adjacent recycling center. General Electric’s PRISM reactor, developed by a consortium of major American companies in partnership with the Argonne National Laboratory, is ready to build now. It is designed to consume existing nuclear waste as fuel, be passively safe and proliferation-resistant. It can provide clean, emissions-free power to counter climate change, and will create jobs as we manufacture and export a superior technology. Abundant homegrown nuclear power will also enhance our nation’s energy security. Our country dedicated some of its finest scientific and engineering talent to this program, with spectacular success. Let’s finish the job we started. It will benefit our nation, and the world.

If you're interesting in destroying nuclear waste, making an unlimited source of energy, then it's time to show your support (if you're a US citizen) and do something about it.
edit on 2/10/11 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)

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