If nuclear waste is hot, can it be used as an energy source?

18 July 2010


If nuclear waste is hot - as I have heard - why can it not be connected to some type of heat exchanger to drive a turbine and provide energy as in a geothermal plant?


We put this question to Professor Swadesh Mahajan from the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas in Austin....

Swadesh - Yes, it can be, but when an actinide fissions inside a nuclear reactor, it produces about 200 MEV of energy. That means a large amount of energy in a single reaction. Anything that you might be able to get from the geothermal thing will be about a factor of 40 to 50 less. So it will be a tremendous wastage of the actinide energy, just to get it in the form of geothermal energy from the waste. Chris - And also, presumably taking into account the infrastructure you would have to plumb in in order to recover the heat from the storage materials. It just wouldn't be financially or from a safety perspective, viable, would it?

Swadesh - Too little energy for that much investment.

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