Dylan James Moon in The Stute:
Nuclear energy is controversial among politicians, environmental activists, and investors. But new reactor designs, the immense energy-density of nuclear fuel, and the lack of carbon emissions make nuclear power attractive, if not crucial, amid growing energy demands and a changing climate.
In the United States, around 100 nuclear reactors provide 20% of the energy. Worldwide, 449 reactors provide 10%. But the designs, dating back to the ’50s, are homogenous. Most reactors use water to cool the Uranium fuel and spit out weapons-grade Plutonium-239 as waste. In his talk, Dr. Friedman, who has physics degrees from MIT and Columbia, emphasized that there are in fact “more than 1,000 possibilities” for reactor designs. This estimate considers fuels, nuclear moderators, coolants, control rods, and the physical configuration of these components. From these possibilities come Generation IV reactor designs.
Generation IV reactors are breeder-burners, meaning the Plutonium-239 byproduct is never removed but simply recycled as fuel.