When today’s children are in their 40s, 9 billion people will want a decent standard of living as resources diminish. For every environmentally-friendly person, there are several thousand self-centred energy users who don’t care where it comes from, as long as it’s there 24/7.
Only one technology can meet the demands of everyone on the planet, for all of time. That technology is the breeder reactor and the cutting-edge version, ready for manufacture today, is the GE Hitachi PRISM Power Block.
LONDON – January 20, 2014 - GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has welcomed today’s announcement by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) that its PRISM reactor technology is a “credible option” for managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile.
After an investigation into the potential of the various alternative options for plutonium reuse, the NDA has affirmed GEH’s view that PRISM could reuse plutonium faster than competing technologies; providing significant value for money to the UK taxpayer.
NDA’s announcement follows a two-year review process which now gives the green light for PRISM - a high energy, sodium-cooled reactor that uses proven, safe, and advanced technologies - to be considered as a credible option to manage the Sellafield plutonium stockpile.
“For more than 50 years GE has been at the forefront of energy innovation and nuclear technology and GE Hitachi’s PRISM reactor offers an attractive solution to tackling the UK’s plutonium management challenges while generating clean electricity,” said Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK & Ireland.
“The UK has the largest storage of civil plutonium anywhere in the world and its Government is committed to re-using that material as an asset rather than a liability, maximizing taxpayer benefits. We believe PRISM offers the most effective solution for accomplishing this goal and look forward to the next stage of this process.”
The Government previously stated a preferred option to build a new MOX plant at Sellafield but, in an effort to gather data on technologies that offer better value or less risk to the taxpayer, responded to GEH’s interest in providing a credible alternative option for the management of plutonium, the PRISM advanced reactor.
Elborne went on: “PRISM can not only re-use the UK plutonium stockpile safely and responsibly whilst generating a step-change in industrial opportunity, but can also provide significant revenue for UK taxpayers. This is a socially and financially responsible solution”.
An Update on the Nuclear Reactor That Eats Its Own Waste
OCTOBER 15, 2010
As The New York Times observed in its Sunday story on nuclear power, just a few years ago, utilities were telling the Nuclear Regulatory Commission they wanted to build 28 new reactors. Fast forward to today, with the economy driving down energy demand and prices — and climate legislation on the backburner — and those reactors are still on the drawing board.
But technological breakthroughs can transform a sluggish sector into a futuristic game-changer. Case in point: GE Hitachi’s Advanced Recycling Center, (ARC). The ARC technology is basically the anti-nuke: it actually burns nuclear waste (even weapons-grade plutonium), and emits exactly zero CO2.
Here’s the secret: The system uses a liquid metal — sodium — to control the nuclear reaction, instead of high-pressure water. The sodium-cooling allows the reactor to “burn” the leftover energy in its used fuel — nuclear waste that, in traditional water-cooled reactors, would be taken and stored for thousands of years. In fact, when used fuel is removed from a traditional water-cooled reactor, 95 percent of its potential energy is still untapped.
Here’s a breakdown of ARC’s benefits:
Burns more of its own raw radioactive fuel
Burns other reactors’ spent fuel
Shuts down automatically if there’s a problem
Is built in small modules than can be expanded
The waste it does generate needs to be stored for just a few hundred years.
Up and atom: The reactor can extract more than 100 times the energy from uranium compared to the “once-through” fuel cycle employed by current nuclear plants.
This week, the ARC technology joined GE’s ecomagination portfolio of more energy efficient technologies. To gain that certification, a technology must complete tough tests that measurably show performance benefits when compared to baselines such as competitors’ best products; the installed base of products; and regulatory standards. A third-party then verifies the claims.
Today’s certification comes as a special U.S. commission is currently evaluating options to help the Department of Energy deal with the growing stockpiles of nuclear waste — a dire problem, now that the long-term nuclear storage facility at Yucca Mountain has been scuttled.
The final benefit of ARC: smaller nuclear power plants. As National Geographic noted in an in-depth story in September, “reactors wouldn’t be the cement behemoths that are the image of nuclear power today.” In fact, they might be “no bigger than 20 feet across” — around the length of your average speedboat.
A fuel cycle solution: As National Geographic reported, Tom Sanders, manager of the Global Nuclear Futures Program at New Mexico’s Sandia National Laboratories and a past president of the American Nuclear Society, told a U.S.Senate committee recently that such reactors “could have the advantage of promoting a cradle-to-grave approach to the nuclear fuel cycle such that you could provide reactors to developing nations and not have to worry about refueling them for 10 to 20 years.”