President-elect Obama often mentions the "safety" of used nuclear fuel as a block to a whole-hearted embrace of nuclear energy, so we wondered what thinking was going on that seeks to mitigate or even eliminate permanent or even (long-term) interim storage.
We might be all aboard the Yucca Mountain Limited, but recognizing the skittishness that some feel about it, what else might we do?
The NYT's Green Inc. blog reports on a notion to use fusion energy to further split and essentially put to immediate use plutonium and the transuranic elements to generate more energy - instant recycling, if you will:
But what if these “transuranics” could themselves be split? Yet more energy would be derived — but perhaps more importantly, the resulting waste, while still radioactive, would be far less long-lived. [note: which might forestall all the science fiction work Washington has done on how to warn people of the far future - or their ape successors - that radiant elements are present.]
At the heart of the concept — which exists only on paper — is what the scientists call a “compact fusion neutron device.”
The compact nature of the reactor is key, as the immensity of previously designed fusion reactors - and the immense amount of energy they need to operate effectively - has kept them off the boards. But considering this is coming from academics still at the preparing-a-paper-for-a-journal phase, this is, at best, a long way from any sort of practical application - which, come to think of it, is true of fusion projects in general. But it is the percolation of ideas that has value.
Read the whole thing - it actually proved tough to excerpt - and see what you think.
Cutaway of an ITER Tokamak fusion reactor. See here for more on it. What the gentlemen in Austin have in mind hasn't seen publication yet.