Sustainable nuclear energy

Fourth generation reactors

Fourth generation reactors use fuels more efficiently, which leads to a higher output with far less radioactive waste. Compared to previous generations; the new reactors can generate 50 times more energy with the same amount of uranium. These innovative reactors can even produce energy from existing radioactive waste.

In our installations and laboratories we test many different types of materials and fuels that might be suitable for these future nuclear reactors. We also carry out measurements and calculations to facilitate their development and safe operation. This research is currently conducted in the BR2 reactor and the laboratory for high and medium level activity. In the long term MYRRHA will also be deployed for this purpose.

Making uranium reserves last much longer

Nuclear fission of uranium is used to generate energy. In the current water cooled reactors ‘slow’ neutrons are used in the fission process that only split uranium-235 atoms.

Fourth generation reactors work with fast neutrons that also split uranium-238 atoms. Because natural uranium contains barely 0.7 % uranium-235 and no less than 99.3 % uranium-238, these ‘fast’ reactors will use the planet’s available uranium reserves much more efficiently. If these reactors are operational by 2030 the current uranium reserves will last for thousands of years. If not, the entire natural uranium reserves will be depleted by 2100.


Less nuclear waste which is less radiotoxic

Because fourth generation reactors use natural uranium more efficiently, they first and foremost create much less radioactive waste. Moreover, these reactors are able to recycle the waste from nuclear reactions via a transmutation process. This results in a drastic reduction in radioactive waste, which remains radiotoxic for a much shorter period. With these new reactors the amount of nuclear waste is limited to barely 1 % of the waste generated by current reactors.

 

More info: New nuclear reactors and fuels