Ray Rothrock

Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Transatomic Tackles Spent Nuclear Fuel Waste with Green Energy

In Energy, Technology, Venture Capital on February 7, 2014 at 6:31 am

One of the public’s concerns for the expansion of nuclear energy as a clean, non-CO2 source of power is the accumulation of spent nuclear fuel waste.  This waste is highly radioactive and must be isolated for hundreds of thousands of years from the environment.  Trivially small by volume, nuclear waste from power plants is nonetheless a real concern for everyone.  And rightly so.  Enter new thinking by today’s grad students to tackle such a thorny issue that the U.S. Government has yet to solve.

Transatomic Power, a new company founded by MIT PhDs , Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, and Russ Wilcox is tackling the spent nuclear fuel issue head on!  Their reactor design, a molten salt liquid fuel design, is able to burn up existing spent nuclear fuel turning it into electricity.  But more importantly, it reduces the ultimate spent fuel radioactivity to a level requiring about 300 years isolation from hundreds of thousands of years isolation and the volume to 1/20 of what it was before it was turned into electricity.   And by the way, there is no proliferation risk introduced in the process, either.  The company is seed financed by me and others.

Recognized by Time, Forbes, MIT Tech Review, and many other national publications, Dr. Dewan and Mr. Massie were featured in a TEDx New England Nov. 1, 2011.  This short 19 minute video is worth watching if you want to witness what new, fresh thinking can do, and want to see what innovation is all about.

The company has produced a white paper describing their technology.  If you’ve been around a while, you’ll recognize that TAP is built on the shoulders of other giants, namely the work done at Oakridge National Laboratory in the 1960s with their graphic moderated molten salt reactors.  By the way, those reactors worked nicely back then.

What are the next steps?  Like all new technologies, this one needs to be tested.  And to do that, the company needs to take their designs to an engineering level that could be built.  And then, in cooperation with the United States Department of Energy (perhaps), the nuclear utility industry, and others, it needs to build a demonstration plant.  This is not a billion dollar project — it is on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars and nicely fits in the national strategy for spent nuclear waste.  By the way, the country has already put aside $30 billion  against the goal of dealing with spent nuclear fuel.  TAP and other ideas make sense to try.

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CNN to broadcast Pandora’s Promise Nov. 7, 9 pm EST

In Energy on November 2, 2013 at 6:49 am

This is directly from the CNN website.

PANDORA’S PROMISE, premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, will receive its global television debut as a CNN Films broadcast on Thursday, Nov. 7 from 9:00pm to 11:00pm, with encores from 11:00pm to 1:00am and 2:00am to 4:00am.  All times Eastern.

The atomic bomb and accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima bring to mind apocalyptic disasters, but the science and experience since suggest that long-held fears about nuclear power may be wrong.  Academy Award®-nominated director Robert Stone examines how fears of “nukes” may have extended the era of fossil fuels, perilously accelerating the pace of climate change as the global demand for energy soars, particularly in the developing world.  Stone takes his camera inside the exclusion zone around Fukushima, and even ventures inside the notorious Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Stone tells the intensely personal stories of environmentalists and energy experts who have undergone profound conversions from being passionately against, to strongly favoring nuclear energy – putting their careers and reputations on the line in the process.  Through the voices of Stewart BrandGwyneth Cravens, Mark LynasRichard Rhodes, and Michael Shellenberger, Stone exposes this rift within the environmental movement as they describe their individual journeys of defection.  Also included are interviews with two pioneering engineers of next generation nuclear reactors.

“I made this film in order to illuminate what I see as the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to the ongoing debate about how to tackle climate change,” Robert Stone said.  “We have a moral imperative to lift billions of people out of poverty, while at the same time dramatically reducing CO2 emissions.  How to do that is the central issue of our time and that led me to take a second look at nuclear energy,” Stone said.

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Thank you CNN — so glad you are doing this for the planet.