One of the key technologies in the GNEP program in is the Advanced Burner Reactor (ABR). Deriving its technology from fast reactors, which were used to make nuclear weapons, the concept of the ABR is to minimize the amount of nuclear waste, produced by the nuclear industry’s power plants, to a tiny fraction of content. The concept behind the ABR is to “burn” the transuranic elements, such as plutonium and other long-living radioactive material. In this case, burning the radioactive waste is translated as: destroying the transuranics, by converting them into shorter-lived isotopes. When the transuranic elements are consumed by the ABR, a large amount of energy is released and then converted into electricity.
Instead of burying several football fields of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain (or elsewhere) for one million years, the toxic waste would be recycled as energy to be immediately used to power homes and industry. Part of the GNEP plan is to combine the current, or advanced, light water reactors with the ABR. As the light water nuclear reactors produce transuranics, the ABRs consume those highly radioactive elements. This leaves less nuclear waste for future disposal, and immediately provides energy.
The major issue in the western United States, about nuclear waste, is “please don’t put it in our backyard.” Several western states have been approached, and even the Carlsbad area was once discussed. Through the ABR technology, it may be possible to minimize the amount of this waste to make it a less undesirable disposal problem. A look at local New Mexico politics may provide an insight as to where the two U.S. senators may be heading with regards to a nuclear power plant for New Mexico.
New Mexico’s Enrichment Facility: Prelude to a Nuclear Power Plant?
If Federal lawmakers are happy about the proposed uranium enrichment facility, some of New Mexico’s state politicians were still floating on clouds when we talked to them yesterday. New Mexico legislator John A. Heaton, the Democratic representative serving Carlsbad, waxed enthusiastic about the enrichment facility, “It’s the first step in converting this country to nuclear energy.”