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Why the nuclear ‘fast reactor’ was never developed at scale

In the race to decarbonize our economy, nuclear power is playing an increasing role in our ability to reach net zero.

Now, a decades-old technology known as a nuclear fast reactor is getting a second look for its ability to turn nuclear waste into energy, as reported in a recent news article on CNBC.

Some researchers are asking why the technology was never developed at commercial scale, especially given nuclear’s rising potential as a viable, major source of clean energy.

The answer is cost, says Ian Horvath, CEO and founder of Serva Energy, a technology startup focused on nuclear innovation.

“Fast reactors are a completely different type of reactor,” said Horvath. “Fast reactors are more complex to design, build and run safely, which means they’re more expensive.”

Horvath believes that improved nuclear safety and environmental sustainability need not be cost prohibitive.

“The idea here is to bring costs down — not up — and to do so by using what we already have in place, conventional commercial reactors, in such a way that it makes our current nuclear fleet safer and more economical to operate while burning up the stockpiles of nuclear waste,” said Horvath.

Horvath’s innovative approach to nuclear waste is at the core of Serva’s technology, known as Smart Nuclear Materials, which allows for massive amounts of transuranic waste to be transformed into nuclear fuel — fuel that will destroy itself as it generates power — essentially extending the life of the nuclear fuel while leading to significant cost savings and zero waste.

“After decades of viewing nuclear waste as a problem to be managed, at Serva we see it as the solution,” said Horvath. “It’s an asset to be harnessed.”

Read the full CNBC article.

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