Nuclear power plants: Shaping new fuels for higher efficiency

MIT researchers have created innovative designs for nuclear fuels that will allow the cooling water inside a nuclear reactor to extract more heat from the uranium fuel. Their new fuels have channels that increase the exposed hot surface area and bumps that churn up the passing water, ensuring that fresh water is continuously brought to the hot surface, thus increasing the cooling effect. These new designs could boost the amount of energy recovered in the same volume of fuel by 30–50 percent, while reducing the cost of electricity by as much as 7 percent.

Nuclear power plants now provide about one-fifth of all the electricity used in the United States. Adding more nuclear plants—or getting more power out of the ones we have—could help us meet growing energy demand without adding to greenhouse gas emissions or oil imports.

At MIT, researchers are looking to improve both current and future plants by changing the design—or “geometry”—of the fuel inside the reactor. “We’ve had many…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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