I recently posted a blog on Atomic Insights about nuclear fuel recycling that broke a record for the number of comments received. Normally, the people that hang out at Atomic Insights are a select few who have accepted the notion that nuclear fission has useful capabilities, but there were plenty of naysayers involved in that conversation.
Apparently, discussing the possibility of nuclear fuel recycling operations stirs up the opposition. Of course, their preferred term is “reprocessing” and they continue to point to characteristics of processes that were developed in the 1950s to explain their opposition. From a purely technological point of view, that is like saying you do not favor the use of computers because the Motorola 6809 is not very reliable. (For the non-geeks in the crowd, the Motorola 6809 was the brains behind the TRS-80, one of the very first personal computers in the mass market.)
During this episode of The Atomic Show, NNadir and I talk about the incredible energy store that is already mined and above ground in the form of used nuclear fuel and the tailings from uranium enrichment operations. We also talk about the other valuable materials – outside of fissile and fertile isotopes – that are found in used nuclear fuel.
Materials like the noble metals of ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium are extremely rare in the natural world, but they could be extracted in ton quantities from the residues of nuclear fission. Isotopes like strontium and cesium have proven uses in nuclear batteries and as irradiation sources. Gold, silver and platinum are famously valuable and are also produced in the amazing alchemy called fission.
Have a listen.