Can we use waste nuclear heat to generate electricity?

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system

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Everyone talks about the spent fuel needing to be constantly cooled. Has anyone investigated a way to use the heat to make electricity? Perhaps to charge a back up battery, to run a pump in an emergency.
Asked by Sean Hoskins, Facebook, and Leslie in Suffolk

                                       
Go to the show page.
                                       
[chapter podcast=3078 track=11.04.10/Naked_Scientists_Show_11.04.10_8326.mp3]  or Listen to the Answer[/chapter] or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 13/04/2011 11:30:04 by _system »

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Offline syhprum

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Can we use waste nuclear heat to generate electricity?
« Reply #1 on: 13/04/2011 15:54:38 »
There is very little waste that will generate a high enough temperature to drive an efficient heat engine, such a power station could be built but it would be hopelessly uneconomic.
The thermoelectric generators in space vehicles use extremely rare and expensive isotopes such as U239.
syhprum