Nu­clear in­dus­try ex­plores ac­ci­dent-re­sis­tant fuel

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

AT­LANTA (AP) — The ex­plo­sions that dam­aged a crip­pled Ja­panese nu­clear plant dur­ing a dis­as­ter that forced mass evac­u­a­tions in 2011 show what can hap­pen when nu­clear fuel over­heats.

In re­sponse to the Fukushima Dai-ichi ac­ci­dent, the U.S. govern­ment dra­mat­i­cally in­creased fund­ing to de­velop tougher pro­tec­tive skins for nu­clear fuel, hop­ing to spur in­no­va­tion in de­signs that hadn’t changed much in years. While the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy was spend­ing $2 mil­lion be­fore the ac­ci­dent on fu­ture fuel de­signs, the fund­ing reached as much as $30 mil­lion af­ter­ward.

Now sci­en­tists at mul­ti­ple in­sti­tutes are in the mid­dle of de­vel­op­ing de­signs that could start find­ing their way into test re­ac­tors as soon as this sum­mer, fol­lowed by larger tests later on.

The goal is to cre­ate nu­clear fuel that that is more re­sis­tant to dam­age and melt­ing in ex­treme sit­u­a­tions and less prone to a chemical re­ac­tion that makes its metal wrap­ping brit­tle and pro­duces ex­plo­sive hy­dro­gen gas.

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