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US DOE Awards $7.3 million for “Deep-Burn” Nuclear Technology Research & Development

One of the unique features of the high temperature gas-cooled reactor is the TRISO fuel used for the fission reaction. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected teams led by Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory to advance the technology of nuclear fuel “Deep-Burn” in which plutonium and higher transuranics recycled from spent nuclear fuel are destroyed while generating energy. This technology advances nuclear power production and reduces the amount of radioactive waste produced in the end.

These R&D activities are aimed at establishing the technological foundations that will support the role of the Very-High-Temperature, gas-cooled Reactor (VHTR) in the nuclear fuel cycle, one of the prototype reactors being researched under the DOE’s Generation IV Nuclear power program. (Earlier post.) The work will be carried out in two parts: Advanced Modeling and Simulation Capability for VHTR Development and Design at a cost of $1 million led by Argonne National Laboratory; and Transuranic Management Capabilities of the Deep-Burn VHTR at a cost of $6.3 million led by Idaho National Laboratory.

Through a competitive process, two national laboratories teams from Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory were selected for work totaling $7.3 million. The laboratories are partnering with other national laboratories, universities, and industry on the project.

The concept of destruction of spent fuel transuranics in a TRISO-fueled (TRIstructural ISOtropic) gascooled reactor is known as Deep-Burn. The term “Deep-Burn” reflects the large fractional burnup of up to 60-70% fissions per initial metal atoms (FIMA) that can be achieved with a single pass, multi-cycle irradiation in these reactors. The concept is particularly attractive because it employs the same reactor design that is used for the NGNP program, with the same potential for highly efficient electricity and hydrogen production. Spent TRISO fuel from Deep-Burn can be either placed directly into geologic storage to provide long-term containment to the residual radioactivity or recycled for fast reactor fuel.

In parallel to the physics analysis, preliminary work has indicated that, due to the large amount of useful energy that can be extracted from the Deep-Burn TRISO fuel (up to 20 times larger than from mixedoxide (MOX) fuel in LWRs), it may be possible to recover all or part of the costs of reprocessing LWR spent fuel. The Deep-Burn concept creates a completely different paradigm for the near-term economics of closed fuel cycles if the cost of spent LWR fuel reprocessing can be offset by the value of the recovered transuranics (TRU) in a Deep-Burn reactor producing power at competitive cost.

As indicated in the course of previous analysis, the Deep-Burn gas-cooled reactor will be nearly identical to the Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) version currently under development for commercial applications. All of the engineering elements of the Deep-Burn concept that relate to the reactor core and the power production are common to the NGNP and are being addressed in the NGNP program and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR) program for weapons-plutonium disposition. Although the deep-burn TRISO fuel shares common elements with the TRISO fuel proposed for the NGNP TRISO fuel and the NNSA’s Plutonium (Pu)-TRISO fuel, many aspects of the Deep-Burn concept still need to be investigated. In order to further develop the technology basis and establish the practical feasibility of the Deep-Burn concept, DOE is initiating work to resolve many of the remaining issues associated with fabrication and performance of the special TRU-loaded TRISO fuel to be used in the Deep-Burn VHTRs.

—Funding Opportunity Number DE-PS07-08ID14907

The primary mission of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) remains the production of high-temperature heat for use as a source of process heat for generation of electricity. A further goal of this work is to enable a quantitative assessment of the scope, cost and schedule implications of extending the NGNP mission in the future to destruction of plutonium and other transuranics.

The Deep-Burn R&D effort will be coordinated with the ongoing Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) programs to ensure synergism and to avoid duplication of efforts. The R&D that will be carried out is a part of DOE’s Generation IV program.


  • Funding Opportunity Number DE-PS07-08ID14907: Deep Burn: Development of Transuranic Fuel for High-Temperature Helium-Cooled Reactors



------"This ‘self indulgence’ and ‘spoiled little brat’ is very proud of our record of safe service to our customers"-----------

The jury in Oklahoma and the Supreme Court do not agree with your "record of safe service".

Karen Silkwood

Kit P

Transportation is dangerous. Karen Silkwood was killed in a car accident, Just like 20,000 other per year.

Karen Silkwood was not a utility worker and did not work at a electrician generating plant. She in fact worked a chemical processing plant with very significant chimerical hazards.

In any case, fuel fabrication facilities are now regulated by the NRC. All three US fuel fabrication facilities currently being operated in the US are run by nuclear companies with a nuclear safety culture. To my knowledge, there were no fatalities at US fuel fabrication in US in 2007 or any year that I can remember. The NRC annual report would document such events in detail.



The men at MIT has just invented a new doe nut shaped fuel packaging for light water nuclear reactors that will increase the output of existing nuclear plants by 50%. The renewable energy that Wetdog favors will have trouble competing with that. I declare the debate over and nuclear has won.


Kit P

Here is the link to the NRC annual report.
Report to Congress on
Abnormal Occurrences
Fiscal Year 2007

I am not sure how many in the US receive radiation for medical reason but the list is very short for major screw ups. Even so, the conclusion is that even massive doses of radiation are not likely to be deadly.

The big news for commercial nukes in FY 2007, some guards fell asleep in a ‘ready room’ and Indian Point is getting a new siren system.


----"The big news for commercial nukes in FY 2007, some guards fell asleep in a ‘ready room’"------

So much for all the elaborate safety and security. The security people were asleep at the wheel.


The truth is, Homer Simpson is running the nuclear power plants.

Kit P

DOE is in the process of taking weapons grade material and converting it to commercial reactor fuel under the regulation of the NRC. One new facility is being constructed using plutonium to make mixed oxide fuel (MOX). Already completed and operating are facilities that uses down blended U-235. Already I have shown that they are no NRC abnormal operating occurrences in 2007. Exposure to heavy metals (like the Silkwood issue) is an industrial safety issue more than a radiological issue. So what is their record for the last 12 months of approximately 2 million hours. There were 13 OSHA reportable accidents, things like pulled muscles from improper lifting.


-------"There were 13 OSHA reportable accidents, things like pulled muscles from improper lifting"--------

That is awfully low number for such a large industry. It means that they are not reporting accidents. The same thing Karen Silkwood said.

Kit P

The ‘13 OSHA reportable accidents’ is for one of three companies in the US that makes nuclear fuel assemblies. This manufacturing process involves converting UF6 to UOx, making fuel pellets, loading the fuel rods, assembling rods into fuel assemblies, and then delivering them to nuclear power plants. Making nuclear fuel is not a large industry because nuke plants do not use a large amount of fuel. It is one of the e = mc^2 things that folks like wetdog have a hard time wrapping their head around. It also follows that the storing nuke waste in a repository will not be a large industry.

‘OSHA reportable accidents’ is just one measure of safety as wetdog suggested. There are also ‘Unsafe Conditions Reported’ and ‘Near-Miss Events Submitted’ that go into a safety pyramid. You can learn as much from a near miss as a fatality. The performance indicator for a safety reporting is the ratio of low level events to reportable events.

Again wetdog demonstrates that he does not understand safety. The Silkwood fatal traffic accident was reported and investigated. The Silkwood insignificant contamination was reported and investigated.

Some folks hold on to conspiracy theories no matter how contradictory the evidence. There was over 5000 work place fatalities in 2007 but wetdog is not concerned about them.


--------"Some folks hold on to conspiracy theories no matter how contradictory the evidence."---------

The Supreme Court didn't think the evidence was contradictory. And they believed the conspiracy theory that Karen Silkwood's death was caused by her reporting safety failures and violations by Kerr-McGee. The highest court in the land upheld the jury's finding and reinstated the $10 million fine.

Nothing contradictory about that.

The IAEA is helping to raise awareness of threats, through training in radiation protection related to medical uses of X-ray imaging systems.

The issue of radiation protection for medical personnel is particularly acute in the case of lengthy angioplasty and other cardiac interventions performed under X-ray fluoroscopic guidance. The procedure can cause extensive radiation exposure to cardiologists that could lead to cataracts, alongside other longer term health risks. Fluoroscopy provides X-ray images of a patient that physicians can view on a display screen or monitor in real time.

Kit P

Wrong again, wetdog has selective reading abilities. The US Supreme Court did not rule on any evidence and did not 'believed the conspiracy theory that Karen Silkwood's death was caused by her reporting safety failures and violations by Kerr-McGee'. The US Supreme Court overturned a lower federal court ruling the threw out the punitive damages sending the case back to the lower court to hear the evidence.

Below is a link to the US Supreme Court ruling that indicates the accuracy of this and my previous statements about Silkwood. Silkwood died in car accident and there is no evidence that her any serious was caused by anyone but her.


“At trial, the parties stipulated that the urine samples had been spiked with insoluble plutonium, i. e., plutonium which cannot be excreted from the body. However, there was no evidence as to who placed the plutonium in the vials.”

“None of the violations, however, was shown to have caused the contamination, or deemed substantial enough to justify imposition of fines by the AEC.”

“These serious conclusions simply were "inferred" - in the absence of specific evidence”

“In fact, except for the contamination of Silkwood that caused her to lose seven days of work, there was no evidence that anyone else had ever been injured by contamination from the Kerr-McGee plant.”

Kit; I did not know that. Isn’t it tragic how the world can be kept from nuclear power by such baseless propaganda like this Silkwood story. Thanks!

Fou is the last living person on Christmas Island who was here when the nukes, nuke scientists and soldiers came to town. Now only fragments of that era remain: old truck tires stacked as a makeshift fence between village huts, concrete platforms where buildings once stood, a rotted wooden backboard on a metal pole -- what was once a basketball hoop for recreating servicemen -- and a crumbling church constructed of dead coral and concrete.
What can be found in abundance, however, is nature. In the intervening decades since the era of nuclear-weapons testing, the natural world has quietly rebounded. Today, Christmas Island, B I k I n i Atoll and other Cold War proving grounds, like Monte Bello north of Perth, Australia, constitute some of the most ecologically intact corners of the world, emitting not radiation but a peculiar allure; it's atomic tourism with a naturalist spin.
Marine biologists diving at B I k I n i have returned with glowing reports. Inspecting a mile-wide crater left by a hydrogen bomb that exploded with a force 1,000 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, researchers recently found the lagoon to be 80 percent covered by thriving corals, with some species growing into huge, treelike formations.
Karen Koltes, a coral specialist with the U.S. Department of the Interior, says reefs around places like B I k I n i "are among the few examples left in the world of what an ecosystem looks like absent human presence and exploitation." (Unintentionally pouring on the irony, scientists will sometimes employ the word "pristine.") This nature-despite-nukes contrast can be seen at other former test sites, such as the waters surrounding Alaska's Amchitka Island where, 40 years ago, the U.S. conducted three underground explosions. The same is true of the desolate dunes of a former French test site in Algeria, and even the scrublands inside the fence at the Nevada Test Site.
Radioactive materials are long-lasting, which is what makes them both scary and misunderstood. The smoke detectors in your home likely contain a radionuclide called americium. But the reason to worry about them has nothing to do with radioactive material and everything to do with whether the detector's battery is working. Contrary to popular belief, previously bombed geographies are not transformed into lifeless, poisoned landscapes for the next 50,000 years. Hiroshima and Nagasaki look just like every other bustling Japanese city, and crawling around in the grass of a city park there is no different than doing so in Seattle or Milan, Italy, or Auckland, New Zealand, at least as far as radiation hazard is concerned.

Kit P

It is a tragedy whenever a child dies in a hot car or swimming pool because of a few moments of inattention. It is a tragedy when parents do not come home from work because of a fatal accident. While we should minimize ppt exposure to industrial and environmental chemicals, we need to prioritize efforts based on risk.

I am in favor of criminal and civil punitive damages for those who are not diligent in carrying out their responsibility. In my experience, fixing and even better preventing problems is so much easier than the the paper work with court cases.

The enemy of good safety culture is human nature. With a good safety culture, identifying problems is encouraged so that the best resources can be identified to solve the problem. With a bad safety culture, the immediate reaction to writing down on paper a problem, is the number of angry senior staff in your face who happen to be in total denial.

Based on the benefit of 30 years of hindsight, what should have been done with Silkwood? Silkwood should have been assigned duties monitoring safety. Once a month, Silkwood should be giving a plant tour to the plant manager pointing out current issues. When employees see the plant plant manager wearing eye and hearing protection, they see that safety is important to management, they are more likely to follow safety rules. The plant manger should make a point of ending each conversation with workers by telling them his door is always open.

An interesting thing happens when employees are empowered to work safely. Not only do they work safely but they take those skills home and share them with family and community. Thirty years later you have communities that want a new nukes because they are good neighbors.


Yes, paying off politicians works quite well at getting investigations closed and evidence destroyed or covered up, doesn't it?

If you have enough money, you can cover up anything, even murder.

Kit P

Now that wetdog is finished misquoting the Supreme Court of the US, he is back to a CT. Two theories, the really smart bad guys first tried to poison Silkwood with what they believed was an insignificant amount of an easily detectable toxic heavy metal that could only be traced to them. Then the bad guys wacked the wack job. Then after paying off all the politicians, they allowed a protracted legal battle leading to the Supreme Court and a movie to be made.

Theory number two is that nuclear fuel was made safely in 1974 as indicated by the absence of serious injuries. One disgruntle union worker died in a car accident. The circumstances were investigated.

In any case, wetdog's contention that radiation is too dangerous to use for benefits such as making electricity or medical treatments is based on an old famous actor who died of cancer and character played by an actor. Lake many, wetdog bases his perceptions on Hollywood.


I'm perfectly satisfied to leave it up to people reading these posts to decide for themselves who is talking straight to them, and who is blowing smoke in their face.


I'm perfectly satisfied to leave it up to people reading these posts to decide for themselves who is talking straight to them, and who is blowing smoke in their face.

Kit P

There was a release of I-131 at a research reactor in the EU last week. While the magnitude was small, it was not a trivial event and the reactor was shut down. Earlier this year, a Canadian research reactor was shut done over safety issues.

“Technetium is used in 80 percent of diagnoses using radioactive technology.”

So what are the ramification of a shortage of medical isotopes?


It look like Wetdog finally gave up and I will have the last word.

Kit P


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