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Ripudaman Malhotra's picture
Independent Consultant
  • Member since 2018
  • 21 items added with 10,544 views
  • Nov 23, 2020
  • 1060 views

A promising technology for niche applications, but will not suffice to combat climate change

Discussions
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 23, 2020

Obviousy there's a lot you don't know from the limited public information available, but it sounds like your red flags are raised but you can't immediately say it doesn't pass the sniff test, is that fair to say? I would imagine most of the claims like this peter out into nothing in reality, but all it takes is for a handful of these moonshots to hit for a huge impact!

Ripudaman Malhotra's picture
Ripudaman Malhotra on Nov 23, 2020

Matt, You're absolutely right.  There's much that I could not learn from publicly available information. Yet, the technology has potential, even though scaling it to serve all the energy needs is clearly a hype. My limited knowlege was also an impetus to post it here so that more knowlegable readers may enlighten me.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 23, 2020

"...a company called Infinite Power for harnessing the energy from the radioactive decay of a strontium isotope, 90Sr. (Infinite? Immediately, my skepticism goes on high alert!)

As it should, Ripudamon. Though the consultants at EnerChemTek have spent a fair amount of time becoming WikiScholars on nuclear energy, they've just scratched the surface.

Strontium-90 is only one of hundreds of radioactive isotopes produced in fission reactors. What comes out of a reactor after 18 months of criticality is a "soup" representing nearly every element on the periodic table. Very few of those elements - typically, the ones with the largest, unstable nuclei, with their neutrons hanging on for dear life - are suitable for producing electricity..

Recovering nuclear fuel from nuclear waste was, for decades, a 600-step chemical processs called PUREX, used by France and other countries. Then in the 1980s, engineers at Idaho and Argonne National Laboratories discovered a new technique called electrorefining, which used electromagnets to separate the fuel from the junk. It put all the useful radioactive materials in waste back to work (including Strontium-90), keeping a fission reactor generating clean energy.

The oil industry, which has always considered nuclear energy its only real competition, had been able to ban PUREX in the U.S. and now set about ending research on electrorefining. In 1994 it was successful, eliminating funding for both the process and the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) in which it was used (if someone tells you we're still waiting for a passively-safe reactor that can burn nuclear waste, tell them we've had one for 26 years).

All to say - strontium-90, by itself, is only radioactive enough to be a problem (it's dangerous), not for generating electricity. As the consultants at EnerChemTek learn more about nuclear energy they will find themselves thinking: "Some very smart person has probably already thought of that idea...there must be something wrong with it." And they'll be right.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Nov 30, 2020

Bob, I think you are inaccurately attributing evil intent on the part of Oil companies. Recycling reactor material from spent nuclear fuel is very expensive. Much more cost effective to simply use once.

Ripudaman Malhotra's picture
Thank Ripudaman for the Post!
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