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A Reactor That Burns Depleted Fuel Emerges as a Potential 'Game Changer
Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @ 19:39:42 EST by vlad

Science By PETER BEHR - Politicians and scientists speak of them hopefully as "home runs" and "game changers," the long-shot technology breakthroughs that could produce a major advance toward the nation's future climate policy goals.

After years in a status closer to science fiction than reality, the traveling wave nuclear reactor is emerging as a potential "game changer," according to a U.S. Department of Energy official. It helps that the reactor is the product of a team of top scientists backed by the deep pockets of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

This reactor (pdf) works something like a cigarette. A chain reaction is launched in one end of a closed cylinder of spent uranium fuel, creating a slow-moving "deflagration," a wave of nuclear fission reactions that keeps breeding neutrons as it makes way through the container, keeping the self-sustaining reaction going.

And it goes and goes, perhaps for 100 years, said former Bechtel Corp. physicist John Gilleland. He heads TerraPower LLC, a private research team based outside Seattle that is pursuing the traveling wave reactor design.

"We believe we've developed a new type of nuclear reactor that can represent a nearly infinite supply of low-cost energy, carbon-free energy for the world," Gilleland said in a presentation. If it can be built, a commercial version of the reactor is 15 years away or more, Gilleland acknowledged. But that could keep its development in step with the long-range policy and business investment decisions that lie ahead for the future of nuclear power fuel cycles and reactor designs.

The venture has caught the Energy Department's eye.

"We've just been introduced to the idea," said Warren "Pete" Miller, DOE's assistant secretary for nuclear energy, who mentioned the project in his comments to last week's 2010 National Electricity Forum in Washington, D.C. "That's one innovation that could make a tremendous difference" for nuclear power.

"These are game changers if they can be deployed," said Miller, a former official at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review magazine chose the traveling wave reactor last year as one of 10 emerging technologies with the highest potential impact...

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/02/23/23climatewire-a-reactor-that-burns-depleted-fuel-emerges-a-72189.html

 
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"A Reactor That Burns Depleted Fuel Emerges as a Potential 'Game Changer" | Login/Create an Account | 2 comments | Search Discussion
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10 Fuel Cell Startups Hot on Bloom Energy’s Trail (Score: 1)
by vlad on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @ 19:52:27 EST
(User Info | Send a Message) http://www.zpenergy.com
By Jeff St. John

Bloom Energy, the fuel cell startup backed by close to $400 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has grabbed the spotlight after emerging from nearly eight years of stealth mode with a media blitz including an exclusive coming out party with CBS’s “60 Minutes” this Sunday. From all the attention, you might think Bloom invented the idea of using fuel cells for stationary power — a market that differentiates the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup from those tackling fuel cells to power vehicles or portable electronics, a field that includes startups alongside electronics and automotive giants including Samsung, Sharp, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, GM and many others...

Full story: http://earth2tech.com/2010/02/22/10-fuel-cell-startups-hot-on-bloom-energy%E2%80%99s-trail/ [earth2tech.com]



 

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