Nuclear waste to energy, to power cities

Category: Energy & Waste

1. Sustainability Problem: Nuclear waste generated by conventional nuclear plants in the United States currently sits onsite, as there is no disposal mechanism in place. In case of any major natural calamity like an earth quake or a flood, entire population in the vicinity of these 121 nuclear facilities will be contaminated with radioactive waste. However, nuclear waste is not to be seen as “radioactive garbage”, as it is technically radioactively spent fuel, which can be reused with the right technology. 

2. Technology: Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR)

  • Access to energy is the key to solving many of the global challenges. Nuclear technology powered the growth of many industrialized nations, but has also resulted in the problem of nuclear waste.
  • Conventional nuclear reactors capture only about 1% of the energy potential of their fuel and spent uranium rods must be removed every 18 to 24 months, safely stored and replaced with hundreds of new rods.
  • Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) utilizes waste/spent uranium transforms it into nonfissile plutonium which becomes the combustion fuel, used to generate electricity.
  • TWR is compact in size and can be built in modular scale and current prototype is of 600MW capacity, enough to power an American city or an entire country like Armenia or Afghanistan.
  • This solution solves both the problem of energy access and the issue of radioactive nuclear waste.

3. Organizational Stakeholders: Cities, Small developing nations, Large manufacturing industries, like iron & steel.

4. Next steps for deployment:

  • Successful commissioning of the prototype
  • Quick regulatory approval systems
  • Mobilization of public and private capital


Click to access 2009_ANS_Winter_Meeting_Presentation_Depleted_Uranium.pdf


By: Pavan Ryali (PR2513)


2 thoughts on “Nuclear waste to energy, to power cities

  1. Pavan, this is a very interesting reactor design. The real benefit of TWR is consumption of existing nuclear waste. The article doesn’t mention the U.S. doesn’t have a national nuclear waste disposal site and plan. Most nuclear plants maintain waste on-site.


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