When a power plant burns, it releases radioactive particles that can cause cancer, birth defects and other problems.
But in a new study, scientists have discovered how to convert those particles into fuel for reactors that burn radioactive fuel.
In a press release, the researchers say they’ve been able to convert 1.5 million cubic meters of spent fuel into fuel that’s more than 50 percent more fuel-efficient than conventional reactors.
The new fuel is made from a combination of elements including a low-radioactivity uranium-235 and a heavy-water-derived element.
The researchers hope to eventually use the fuel for power plants in the US and Europe.
The study is the first of its kind to look at how a nuclear reactor is used to generate fuel, and the first to measure the fuel’s efficiency.
It was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
“It’s a very important step in the development of fuel for nuclear power plants,” said study lead author Emanuele Baccus, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Southern California.
“What we’re seeing is that it’s much more efficient to get energy out of a reactor using spent fuel.”
The study used data from two reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the former site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, as well as data from four nuclear power reactors in California.
Each was shut down after the disaster, but a number of smaller reactors have been restarted since the disaster.
In total, more than 60 reactors were shut down, and another 50 in the process of being restarted.
The number of reactors in operation in the U.S. has fallen to 3,500, down from about 5,400 in 2012.
The research is part of a larger effort by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and test a fuel-recycling system.
The NRC plans to build two of the largest nuclear power facilities in the world in Georgia and South Carolina.
The first will be built near Savannah, Georgia, and run at full capacity.
It will be the largest plant to be built at the site.
The second plant will be located in Mississippi, where the cost of the plant is roughly the same as in the United States.
“The cost of building this facility will be very affordable, and we’re very confident it will be viable for years to come,” Baccu said.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the reactor start up.”
The researchers found that the amount of spent material in the reactor fuel was dependent on the reactor type, the age of the reactor, the fuel type, and how much spent fuel was used.
“In the past, we’ve only been able for a small amount of fuel to be used,” Bacus said.
The more fuel used, the more the reactor would produce.
“But now we have this huge amount of data that we can use to calculate fuel efficiency,” he said.
The researchers also found that using less fuel is the key to the most efficient reactor designs.
“For the same amount of energy, the power plant would use about 20 percent less fuel than a reactor with a larger fuel load,” Bactu said, “but the power station would still produce about the same power.”
The fuel can also be converted into other useful products.
“This is a really exciting finding, because it means that there are a lot of fuel sources out there,” Bocchi said.
But the researchers also note that other technologies will be needed to use the energy from nuclear power.
“There’s no such thing as waste from a nuclear power station,” he noted.