Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nuclear Power Innovation?

Are traveling-wave reactors the new wave?

Whatever the results, it is good to see innovation being funded in this important field, as reported by Fast Company.

An excerpt.

“Nuclear power, that oft-maligned source of clean energy, got a boost earlier this year when TerraPower announced plans to team up with Toshiba to build a hot tub-sized traveling-wave nuclear reactor. Now TerraPower is moving even closer to commercialization with news that investors--including Khosla Ventures and Charles River Ventures--are backing the startup with a cool $35 million. TerraPower claims it has already raised tens of millions of dollars, though it won't give exact figures.

“Unlike light-water nuclear reactors that run on enriched uranium, TerraPower's traveling-wave reactors run on depleted uranium that only needs to be replaced every 60 to 100 years. Based on known uranium reserves, TerraPower believes that its reactors could power the world for thousands of years without having to chemically reprocess fuel.

“TerraPower explains the science behind traveling-wave reactors:

“A nuclear fission reactor produces and controls the release of energy from splitting atoms of certain heavy elements. The nuclear power plants of today require a full core of fuel made from enriched uranium. The TWR, in contrast, initially contains only a small amount of enriched uranium, which is used to kick off the chain reaction through a core of depleted uranium. The wave of fission would move slowly through this depleted uranium core, splitting many more of the uranium atoms than a conventional reactor would.”