Since fusion reactors are nowhere to be seen, Japanese giant Hitachi has announced that it will work together with three American universities to develop a nuclear reactor capable not only of functioning on the spent radioactive nuclear waste, but also reduce the waste lifespan from 100,000 years to a few hundred.
The uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants contains TRUs, which are harmful to humans, and it is estimated that it takes about 100,000 years for the radioactive properties of these materials to decay to the level of uranium ore in its natural state. If TRUs could be effectively removed from these spent fuels, then the period of decay for the remaining radioactive waste materials could be reduced to just a few hundred years. For this reason, research and development is being conducted throughout the world targeting nuclear reactors that can achieve nuclear fission in transuranic waste.
As one solution to this challenge, Hitachi has undertaken the development of RBWRs based on Boiling Water Reactor technologies, which already have an extensive track record of applications in commercial nuclear reactors. RBWRs could potentially use TRUs separated and refined from spent fuel as fuel along with uranium. Although RBWRs use new core fuel concepts to burn TRUs, they use the same non-core components as current Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), including safety systems and turbines. As such, RBWRs are unique in that extensive experience accumulated through the application of BWRs can be leveraged to achieve efficient nuclear fission in TRUs.
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