Showing posts from February 27, 2011

The Traveling Wave Reactor Gets Two New Friends

The Traveling Wave Reactor Gets Two New Friends An obscure concept in nuclear fission recently got a boost. Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) signed on as a partner to help commercialize the traveling wave reactor. The traveling wave reactor (TWR) has only a central core of high-grade fuel. The balance is so-called “spent fuel” or “nuclear waste.” The terms are not totally correct because only a faction of the potential fission energy has been used from the fuel, and the material would not be waste if there were a reactor that could use it. The TWR might be such a device. In theory, the high-grade fuel sends enough neutrons into the lower-grade fuel that it breeds a layer of plutonium and various other radioactive species. These materials, in turn, generate neutrons to cause the active zone to travel further into the lower-grade material. The process might deliver byproduct heat for decades with no switching of fuel rods. Such a process might be harnessed for reactors that cou