Nuclear Cafe Matinee: Nuclear Recycling in 4 Minutes

The 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced by the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States each year — all while emitting no greenhouse gases — is by far America’s biggest source of green energy.  And this abundant energy source can become even greener by recycling used nuclear fuel.

Currently, only about five percent of the uranium in a nuclear fuel rod gets fissioned for energy; after that, the rods are taken out of the reactor and put into storage. There is a way, however, to use almost all of the uranium in a fuel rod. Recycling the uranium in used nuclear fuel could power the United States for a thousand years, just by using the uranium we’ve already mined, and all of this energy carbon-free.

This excellent short video from Argonne National Laboratory explains how.

And now… you too can regale your friends and others at holiday parties with pontifications about pyroprocessing!

Thanks to Argonne National Laboratory, and for more information visit Argonne Nuclear Energy.

8 Responses to Nuclear Cafe Matinee: Nuclear Recycling in 4 Minutes

  1. Very interesting, and when explained this way it makes perfect sense to do it. Explain to me why we don’t do this here in the US?

  2. Great stuff! And this is what we, the @Nuklearia, tell people in Germany, where burning transuranics in fast reactors is a virtually unknown concept.

    Any change to participate in creating a German version of this video? Or at least German subtitles?

  3. “800 billion kW of electricity each year”… interesting units…

  4. James Greenidge

    Maybe this is far afield, many advised Arthur C. Clarke that he should patent his concept of communications satellites long before Sputnik when he first figured out what geosync orbits were best, how satcoms should operate, and how best stage them there. He modestly declined even though many felt he had a legal case for shared telecom royalties at least. One could say nuclear reactors — the first in the world — are the U.S. government’s babies by din of WWII, whom by this creative default ought automatically have a major responsibility in the progress of the technology and the issues of waste and recycling. This puts nuclear energy, unlike coal or oil or gas, in a position unique in energy sources in having a defacto certified parent of sorts as it were who ought have a major say in minding the offshoots and side-effects of its technology in the commercial and research realms at least in the U.S. This might raise interesting issues; is a subsidy to nuclear power generation or waste disposal then really a h

    James Greenidge
    Queens N Y

  5. The EBR-II fast reactor proved the utility of metal fuel manufactured by pyroprocessing. The fuel survived inherently safe testing! Metal fuel was being tested in the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) in preparation for design certification of the core of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR).
    The Clinton Administration stopped advanced reactor work, decommissioned the EBR-II, deactivated the FFTF, and stopped post-irradiation examinations, thus abruptly ending next generation reactor programs as envisioned and proven by Dr. Enrico Fermi.
    At this time, DOE is asking Secretary Chu to sign a Record of Decision (ROD) to decommission the Fast Flux Test Facility. Advanced fuel and reactors? Ask the U.S. Senate, why not here?

  6. Yes, would have preferred the narrator used the proper units (kWh)… at least the story above got it right.

    But still — 800 billion kWh is pretty impressive, and I’m glad ANL made the points it did in this video.

    Now: how do the economics of pyro differ from those of PUREX?

  7. Extrapolating from aluminum electrolysis, a 1 GW IFR would spend about 20 MWh a year pyroprocessing its fuel. I don’t know about PUREX.

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