Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Ray of Hope

I have long been a fan of nuclear energy as something that is in the long run affordable and can mitigate the possible effects of global warming related to CO2 production. Of course, there are many problems with nuclear technology as it stands.

There has been little change in the basic design of a nuclear power plant since the 1950's.  You would think that there would have been some innovation in that time, and perhaps finally there has been.  For the first time, I now have seen a technology that, while not the infamous "cold fusion," comes close to a magic bullet in solving mankind's energy needs.  It uses nuclear fuel that is now considered waste, and a plant would generate electricity for 50-100 years without refueling. 

In this this link, Bill Gates fairly well summarizes the concept of a "traveling wave reactor" (TRW) as a means of cheap, safe nuclear energy production for both developed and under developed societies.  This technology, if successfully developed and deployed, would use un-enriched uranium for its power, would use as it's source of fuel all the used power plant fuel rods stored on site around the world (the current US stored fuel rods would supply about 200 years of TWR power for the country.)

I don't know if this will ever happen, but it's much more realistic than cold fusion ever was.