The Department of Energy (DOE) is looking for ways to reduce the environmental footprint of nuclear energy; specially its fuel waste; consequently, this Wednesday, DOE announced a $40 million investment for a program that will limit the amount of waste produced from advanced nuclear reactors.
Firstly, the program is led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). As said above this program will look for ways to reduce fuel waste from nuclear power production; to protect the land and the air in which nuclear plants locate; consequently, increasing the deployment and use of this energy source.
Secondly, nuclear is one of the most reliable energy sources in America; in fact, it is the largest domestic source of clean energy; it provided 52% of the nation’s carbon-free electricity in 2020; and, also, about a fifth of U.S. electricity overall.
However, nuclear power production produces large amounts of waste fuel; specifically, up to 2000 metric tons of used fuel annually; such waste must be disposed in a safe way, and/or stored.
Thirdly, this would be, precisely, the issue that ARPA-E intends to address with its “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS) program. It will face challenges posed by the limited disposal options for spent nuclear fuel.
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Moreover, it will do so through the development of novel processes and applications at the start of a fuel cycle; for the prevention of the formation of nuclear waste. In this regard ONWARDS is the first program focused on this matter.
In addition, DOE’s statement underlined that the program aims to “provide transformative solutions; to improve the management, clean-up, and disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.”
Furthermore, the processes on which the program will focus, will be: improvements on recycling. Also, Improvements in sensor and data fusion technologies that enable accurate and timely accounting of nuclear materials.
Finally, Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said. “More than half of our zero-carbon energy is generated from nuclear power; through this groundbreaking research we can also expand nuclear’s potential. DOE is proud to invest in the next generation of nuclear energy technologies; that will power the nation and also protect our environment.”