Brandi Klingerman | June 19, 2017
The United States’ current nuclear power process only uses about one percent of the total energy available from the fuel, resulting in radioactive waste that leaves a significant negative impact on the environment. Several other countries – such as France, Great Britain, and Russia – recycle nuclear fuel by reprocessing the used fuel to make even more energy. At the University of Notre Dame, researchers within ND Energy are thinking creatively about problems surrounding nuclear materials and are searching for solutions to reduce waste, decrease the cost of nuclear energy production, and increase efficiency and safety of the entire process.
Although not currently practiced in the United States, the best-known way to fully utilize nuclear fuel is to recycle or reprocess the waste produced in the fuel cycle. To explain, Peter C. Burns, the Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences and director of ND Energy, said, “Even though it has been forty years since President Jimmy Carter outlawed nuclear fuel recycling, the reasons he cited – high cost and the proliferation of nuclear weapons – are still the main factors behind the country’s reasoning not to recycle nuclear waste as a fuel source. This is despite the fact that nuclear energy accounts for 20 percent of the United States electricity and has a low carbon footprint.”