The German-Canadian company Dual Fluid has developed a nuclear reactor that is intended to generate energy from nuclear waste. A first pilot plant is to be used in Rwanda.
What will the energy supply of the future look like? Experts around the world are currently asking themselves this question. It is obvious that wind, hydro and solar power will play a role. Nevertheless, natural sources still have the disadvantage that they are not continuously available.
Therefore, many countries continue to rely on nuclear power. But what happens to the required fuel rods when they reach the end of their life? The contaminated waste often ends up in final storage facilities, which in turn stimulates discussion about the sustainability of nuclear power. Physicists from the German-Canadian company Dual Fluid have now developed a reactor that generates energy from nuclear waste.
Nuclear reactor uses nuclear waste to drive two cycles
Research into the reactor has been going on for several years. However, the researchers want to set up a first pilot plant in Rwanda soon. At Dual Fluid the name says it all. Because the concept is based on two liquids. While the core of the reactor consists of liquefied uranium, the second circuit is based on liquid lead.
To lower the melting temperature of uranium, the scientists added a small amount of chromium to the substance. The uranium heats up and transfers the heat to the second circuit made of lead. The lead circuit then runs outwards and heats water, for example, to drive a turbine.
Enriched uranium is still necessary
The first version of the reactor requires around 20 percent enriched uranium and therefore cannot be operated entirely with nuclear waste. Nevertheless, the team would like to further develop the technology in order to continuously reduce the proportion of “fresh” uranium. Security is another positive aspect of the technology.
When the uranium nucleus heats up, the liquid expands. The pressure decreases and the uranium cools again. The experiment in Rwanda is expected to bring additional benefits and challenges. The physicists’ first system is expected to go into operation there in two to three years.