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The Energy in Nuclear Waste Could Power the U.S. for 100 Years, but the Technology Was Never Commercialized

There is enough energy in the nuclear waste in the United States to power the entire country for 100 years, and doing so could help solve the thorny and politically fraught problem of managing spent nuclear waste.
That’s according to Jess C. Gehin, an associate laboratory director at Idaho National Laboratory, one of the government’s premier energy research labs. The technology necessary to turn nuclear waste into energy is known as a nuclear fast reactor, and has existed for decades. It was proven out by a United States government research lab pilot plant that operated from the 1960s through the 1990s. For political and economic reasons, the technology has never been developed at commercial scale. Today, there’s an increased urgency to address climate change by decarbonizing out energy grids, and nuclear power has become part of the clean energy zeitgeist. As a result, nuclear fast reactors are once again getting a serious look.


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